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: https://www.seekworkshops.com/select-workshop/oaxaca-amy-touchette

You won’t be disappointed.

Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Part 9

We conclude our presentation of Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity" with today's installment of the series she produced for Exxplorevision, an Instagram community dedicated to promoting the work of women photographers. Kass and her husband Eric, both known for their distinctive style of photographing daily life, will be teaching a creative photography workshop in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala in February 2018. Our accommodations and studio space will be at Posada de Santiago, and we will visit many of the villages around Lake Atitlan, a place that has entranced the Menchers for years. This workshop is filling and is expected to sell out. We are offering an early sign-up discount until September 30. For more information about the workshop, including an extensive gallery of photos by Eric and Kass, and to register, please visit the workshop page here: http://www.seekworkshops.com/select-workshop/lake-atitlan-guatemala-mencher

Thank you, Kass, for sharing your words and photos.

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dawn chorus singing
imprint of a bird in the sky
it's the era of ether





As I've written previously, I've been to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, nine times in the past seven years, usually for 2-4 months each visit. Originally the plan was to come only once. Obviously that is not what happened. 

There is a Mayan myth about a magic ring that was thrown into the middle of the lake. The ring was imbued with the power to attract and that is why so many people come once and stay, or in my case, keep returning time and again.
Others say there are 3 major energy vortexes that also have the power of attraction: the Pyramids at Giza, Machu Pichu in Peru, and Lake Atitlán.

I like the myth about the magic ring, but hey, that's me. I believe in magic. But whatever the cause there is no doubt that I am under the spell of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.

Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Parts 7 & 8

With today's installment of "Fixed in Eternity," we continue our presentation of Kass Mencher's project about Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Kass and her husband Eric Mencher have lived several months per year since 2010 in villages around Lake Atitlan, photographing and observing Maya culture and the landscape surrounding the former caldera of, now one of the world's deepest and most mysterious lakes. In February 2018, the Menchers will co-teach "The Analytical & The Intuitive," a special photography workshop in which they will lead discussions and experiments in Light and Shadow, Space (and How to Use It), Composition, and Moment. Visit the workshop page to learn more: http://www.seekworkshops.com/select-workshop/lake-atitlan-guatemala-mencher
--Andrew Sullivan

All photos and text courtesy of Kass Mencher

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silent with stones
dawn
becomes day

“We tell ourselves stories to try to come to terms with the world, to harmonize our lives with reality.” - Bill Moyers

The world began on August, 13, 3114 B.C. And it began not far from where my lady at dawn is standing, in the waters off Santiago. “Before the world was made, on Lake Atitlán existed at the center of everything. Everything was covered with water. Then the three volcanoes grew out of the lake and lifted the sky. A cosmic hearth was created which they lit with a lightning bolt igniting new life in a new dawn” - Maya elder

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For eons the Maya have fished the same fish in the same way from their cayucos that they gracefully guide along the lake, making the difficult seem easy. And Chaac the rain god, also a fisherman, provided them with a varied bounty of fish for centuries and centuries until 1958, when a plague of large mouth bass from Florida and Alabama rained down through the sky from the wings of Pan Am Airlines. Like many ill-considered ideas prompted by self-interest (tourist dollars) and not much else, this did not end well.

The Maya ended up with less fish--not more--and many local species were devoured out of existence. Pan Am went bust and lake hotels were able to fill rooms anyway, without the help of the U.S. sports fisherman.

Today, fishermen's wives still get up before sunrise to make fresh tortillas for their husbands who still begin their days with the twilight of dawn.

Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Parts 5 & 6

We are happy to publish the third part of the project Kass Mencher completed earlier this year on  Lake Atitlan, Guatemala for @exxplorevision, an Instagram community that promotes the work of women photographers. Kass and her husband Eric Mencher will lead a workshop in Santiago Atitlan from February 18-23, 2018. --Andrew Sullivan

Photos and text courtesy of Kass Mencher

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boat becomes volcano
volcano clouds
clouds sky
all becomes light
.
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Shapeshifter
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.
In wisdom cultures the artist acts as a shaman or shapeshifter. He or she is someone who walks between worlds.
Antonio Ramirez Sosóf an indigenous, Tz'utuzil was a shapeshifter. A lumberjack for 30 years, he gave it up when the time of "La Violencia" began in Guatemala--it would have been certain death for him to appear alone in the forest. And Antonio was about life. He became a woodcarver instead, learning to listen to the whispers of the wood, whispering to him what it wanted to be. When his back and shoulder wore out he had a vision of becoming a painter using needle and thread.

Many of his vividly embroidered pieces hang in the restaurant at the Posada de Santiago in Santiago. They depict his world, the sacred and the profane, the waking and the dream one all in one frame. I suspect that to Antonio Ramirez Sosóf it was all real. It was all good.

Near the end of his long life he lost his sight but not his smile. Perhaps he already knew his vision would live on.

 

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wrapped in herstory
in shades of blue
moonlight's descendent
.
.
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Meditation on Blue
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Blue is the color of the spirit. It is the color of water and sky. It is the world's favorite color.
The Maya have their own blue, Maya Blue.
Due to its indestructibility it is considered to be one of the great artistic and technological advances to come out of Meso-America.

It is the color of clear skies in the dry season. And it is the rain god Chaac's favorite color. At the "Well of Sacrifice" in the northern Yucatan, a lot of pottery and at least 127 humans, mostly male, all painstakingly painted Maya Blue, perished in order to woo some rain out of Chaac.
Centuries later different sacrifices were made. Indigo known as the "king of dyes" led to many indigenous dying for the King of Spain. Others made fortunes satisfying the royal appetite. But the people on the plantations were paid 1 peso every 20 days and the unpaid factory workers paid with their lives, lucky to live 7 more years.

Most of the women in San Antonio Palopo still wear traje, traditional dress. This includes a hair ribbon (cinta), blouse (huipil), sash (faja), shawl ( rebozo), and a skirt (corte). The whole ensemble can cost $250 dollars and the blouse can take up to 6 months of labor. Each village has different colors. San Antonio's use shades of blue with vertical stripes. But traje is so much more than a personal expression. It is a story of their life, and their history. It is a testament to their perseverance in the face of unrelenting adversity. And like the color, Maya Blue, the indigenous women of Guatemala are indestructible and continue to dazzle despite it all.