Itinerary for Oaxaca Workshop in March 2019 & Interview with Amy Touchette

Photo by Amy Touchette

Photo by Amy Touchette

We are happy to return to Oaxaca in March 2019 for our second annual workshop there with Amy Touchette. We’ve shifted our itinerary a little bit to be able to visit the indigenous market at Tlacolula, where Zapotec people from distant villages travel to barter for all sorts of goods, from spices to live turkeys to textiles and much more. Our planned schedule is here:

Thursday, March 7 - Arrival, check-in to The Oaxaca Inn, and welcome dinner in downtown Oaxaca.

Friday, March 8 - Head outside the city to photograph Ocotlan, a town that transforms into a dynamic market every Friday. We went in March of this year on the last day and it was one of the highlights - an amazing place. Then head to Santa Catarina Minas to visit a mezcal maker who uses traditional techniques.

Saturday, March 9 - Street photography and portraiture in downtown Oaxaca, with lunch at Mercado 20 de Enero, one of the iconic sites in the city. Work at the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photographic Center, a workshop and gallery space named after the famous Mexican photographer. Photograph the Zocalo, Santo Domingo, and the Botanic Garden.

Sunday, March 10 - Leave the city again to visit the indigenous market at Tlacolula, where barter is one of the main forms of commerce. Lunch with a Zapotec family at Teotitlan del Valle, and a visit to the women's weaving collective, where they make rugs and blankets with natural dyes they create themselves from plants and insects.

Monday, March 11 - Visit the pyramids outside the city at Monte Alban. Work at the Institute of Graphic Arts in downtown Oaxaca.

Tuesday, March 12 - Photograph Central de Abastos on the outskirts of downtown Oaxaca, a labyrinth of commerce - it's the spot where produce, meat, fish, and literally anything else you could possibly imagine wanting comes into Oaxaca. It's a stimulating macrocosm of daily life.

Wednesday, March 13 - Checkout of the Oaxaca Inn and bid farewell.

I’ve hesitated posting itineraries on past workshops for fear of “spoiling the surprise.” The reality is that each day in our workshops we encounter many unexpected “gifts from the photo gods,” and beyond the structure of an itinerary is where the magic of photography lives. We’ve found that no matter how strong an itinerary might be, even as it’s filled with spectacular locations and adventurous experiences, it’s the people we meet and photograph are what our workshops remarkable and unforgettable - from Don Pedro, who showed us secrets of Monte Alban, to Pastora Gutierrez demonstrating how she makes natural dyes for her handmade rugs, to the anonymous everyday people who share a smile or prepare a tlayuda for our lunch.

Amy was recently interviewed by photographer Timothy Frazier for his online magazine The Photographic Bandwidth. Please take a look. Amy’s insights into her work are always revealing and will make you think about how to look at photography, and life, a little bit differently and with more sensitivity. Great interview, and thanks to Timothy.

I began photographing people who I felt somehow embodied singularity, being alone. And what I saw in all of them was this beautiful marriage of vulnerability and liberation, a sort of calm, honest, susceptible strength.

And if you’d like to join us in Oaxaca for an unforgettable photographic experience (not to mention that we will eat some of the best food in the world….), please check out the workshop listing here to sign up:

You won’t be disappointed.

SEEK Interviews: Q. Sakamaki

This is the second in an occasional series of interviews with SEEK instructors, our colleagues and friends, curators, photographers of all different kinds, our influences, and people who we think you might find interesting. Today we bring you SEEK instructor Q. Sakamaki, a New York City-based two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award who has published five books of his work. Q blends coverage of global events with his personal interpretation of how these events affect people's lives and psyches. We are planning a workshop in Mexico City this year which will feature Q teaching with his friend and colleague Spencer Platt. Follow Q's work on Instagram @qsakamaki - and read more about him on his bio page here: For now, please enjoy this email interview and two galleries of Q's work. The first is from his project, "China's Outer Lands":


SEEK: What is the most important thing when it comes to taking photos? 

QS: To catch emotion related to human dramas, or even to reveal what may be behind those dramas. Through photography, I would like to explore humanity — who we are and what is important or critical for us. Then, I would like to share the work as much as I can. 

SEEK: Can you tell us a little about your friendship with Spencer and how your teaching together will be an interesting experience for students? 

QS: We have known each other more than decade. Both of us cover international affairs, as well as domestic issues in the United States. We often encounter each other in hot spots, including conflict zones, such as Israel, Palestine, Sudan, and Greece (during the recent refugee crisis). We share information and exchange our own views in such places or in New York where both of us live. We share much common ground about humanity, journalism, and photography. However, our style is quite different, since he works for Getty Images as a wire type of a dynamic photographer, on the other hand, I work more likely aiming for magazines, especially for feature stories, often with fine-art like aesthetic images. So, teaching together with Spence will be very interesting for students, since they'll learn different perspectives to swim well in the very demanding seas of photo-documentary and photo-journalism. 

SEEK: You mentioned in your bio that you are combining elements of fine art with documentary photography with aspects of your identity. Can you elaborate on this idea? How does your identity come into play with your photography?

QS: First, any personal expression could be art. Photo-documentary should be so, though in the arena of non-fiction. Due to this nature, I would like to combine my documentary photography with fine art to make my photography grow more.

Second, for me, it is not enough to photograph the moment as it is. Although, again, there is no fabrication and no bias in photo-journalism and photo-documentary, it is also equally, or ever more important to seek something behind the scenes captured in front of us — like something universal, for example, injustice or the human soul. Those have evolved in humanity throughout history, and are nearly always related to identity and belonging of people. However, unlike the general notion, identity and belonging are often changing — at least these are not perfectly definable. This has affected me as well - I moved from place to place many times in my childhood (often facing discrimination), and now I have lived in the United States much longer than I ever lived in Japan. Thus, to explore human dramas, combining with my own identity and belonging is very natural. And through such a process, I would like to figure out what humans are, and where we came from, and where we are heading.

SEEK: And you also mentioned that it could be possible to explore one's own future through photography. Will you tell us more about this idea?

QS: As I mentioned above, photography can be a process of seeking for universal values, since to take photos is to explore human dramas, even the motivations behind them. It also could become a means to figure out what humans are, as any human drama is related to the past, present, and future. So, photography can be a significant process to explore both where we humans came from and where we are heading.

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SEEK: In your recent project, "Tojinbo: Suicide Cliffs," you've taken on a challenging and sensitive topic. A few of the photos seem to have metaphorical elements. This appears to be an effective way to evoke a deeper meaning within an individual picture and to affect the overall body of work. How do you create a metaphor with a photo?

QS: Yes, that is right. I like metaphors in my photography and it could be very effective for not only an individual photo, but also for a whole work, since the world is not so simple, each subject has very complicated matters and elements around it, even though those are related to each other. So, for the creation of an individual photo, I nearly always look for elements that can be not only related to the theme of the story, but can also give deeper meanings and often evoke something haunted behind the story or scene.

SEEK: Many thanks to Q for sharing his thoughts and his photographs. Please visit for extended edits and many more bodies of work. We conclude this interview with a selection of photos from Q's coverage of the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima, Japan, both shortly after the event and his return one year later to photograph stories of survival.

SEEK Interviews: Spencer Platt

This is the first in an occasional series of interviews with SEEK instructors, our colleagues and friends, curators, photographers of all different kinds, our influences, and people who we think you might find interesting. Starting off this series is an interview with SEEK instructor Spencer Platt, who is Senior Staff Photographer for Getty Images in New York City. Spencer's long career has taken him around the world, covering international events ranging from wars, famines, and refugee crises to Presidential elections and stories of daily life. Follow Spencer's work on Instagram @plattys1 - and read more about him on his bio page here: For now, please enjoy this interview (which was conducted by email).

SEEK: Can you tell us a bit about your experience in Albania in the mid-90's? How did you feel working there? What was something you encountered that was challenging, and how did you overcome it?

SP: I went to Albania in 1996 out of the frustration of working at a small regional newspaper. While it was the perfect setting to learn the craft of photojournalism, there was a monotony to my life that I wanted to alter, to throw it all into the sea. I went on the encouragement of my mother and the experience committed me forever to the life of a photojournalist, one of the last romantic careers. The country was in chaos, there were riots in the streets and the old communist order was being pulled apart. At the time I don’t think I was aware of the bigger historical picture or what it all meant for the future. I was simply happy to be roaming the country for 10 days with two film cameras and a rucksack. In one southern city they burned the police station down as I arrived on the night train; I somehow found a hotel and managed to get some food. I barricaded myself in the little room with an old dresser against the door, there was shooting in the street and I was terrified. It was one of the happiest nights of my life.

SEEK:In your bio you mentioned the theme of "a life worth living." What does that mean to you?

SP: I desperately wanted to be a “witness” to history, to be engaged in something larger than myself. What I learned from the experience is the idea of personal agency, how we have the power to shape our lives and careers in ways I never quite understood. Prior to my experiences in Albania I was of the impression that we primarily reacted to external events as humans, that we had only modest control over our destiny. While I was very young and naive on that trip, it taught me that action, decisiveness and original thought will often bring rewards…or at the very least experiences that give your life a durability that you can profit from. I haven’t always taken this lesson to heart in my photographic career, but it I strive to keep this idea in mind and am certain it has shaped my life. We live in an age that is increasingly passive, where too many of us are relegated to voyeurs on social media, television or other forms of entertainment. 

SEEK: How is being a flaneur, or, "a stroller of the street," important to you as a photographer?

SP: The beauty of street photography is that it demands engagement with your world. You can’t pursue this kind of work from an office or bedroom, from looking at a screen or listening to a podcast. One needs to be physically and spiritually in the present moment. One of the most beautiful aspects of street photography is that it’s an instrument you can play for the rest of your life, constantly tweaking it or re-examining it, but it ill always be there for you. I think once a person becomes comfortable with their personal vision it is a very therapeutic way to get through life. 

SEEK: Can you tell us a little about your friendship with Q and how your teaching together will be an interesting experience for students?

SP: I’ve forgotten where I first met Q, but it was certainly while covering a war some place. We worked very differently but somehow managed to be good traveling companions. In conflict situations it is always better to travel with someone else in case you run into trouble. You must also trust this persons advice and feel at ease with their decisions on how to proceed with the day; where the pictures will be made. This is very important and Q has always had a sense for how news events will unfold. Before you make an important picture there is often much thinking and debating, much walking and watching.

SEEK: Can you elaborate on how you think photojournalism and photography can be a way of "demanding more from life?"

SP: If there is anything I want my work to achieve it is the idea of the “rugged” life, both physically and mentally. A life that doesn’t divert from risk or discomfort, that seeks to constantly improve on our skills and to being a committed actor in our time. This sense of engagement involves literature, music, photography and a deep empathy. This sense of empathy, or compassion for others, is only fully realized through art. Street photography, when deeply pursued, it is the study of the theater of the street, of the small and large dramas that define who we are.