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.

A Typical Day Photographing At Lake Atitlán

San Pedro Volcano in the morning light.

San Pedro Volcano in the morning light.

By Eric Mencher (aka Señor Amable)

Part One of a Four-part Series on what an average day might be like taking pictures around Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.

Part 1, Early Morning

Around Lake Atitlán, the earlier you get out into the slight chill of the early morning, the more engaging your pictures might be. Even before the sun begins to warm me, a beautiful soft but faint light hangs over the lake. In the large lagoon behind the Posada de Santiago, a mist rises early, enveloping the fishermen in a surreal haze as they glide effortlessly through the still water. Some days I’m torn between taking pictures, doing yoga, or just stopping to witness the most incredible awakening of the day one will ever see. Usually I choose photographing (or yoga with my iPhone by my side, which really isn’t yoga) and my heart thumps as I race around the water’s edge, making decisions about the best angles, choosing between color or black and white or perhaps some quirky app, and wondering if I should have reserved the Posada’s canoe to really get out into the middle of it all.

As the sun slowly shares its golden light, I watch (and photograph) with awe as its rays first dance atop the San Pedro Volcano, then slowly work their way down like giant spotlights, highlighting every ripple in the water and every crag on the perfect pyramid that stares me down.

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But wait! In the distance, I see a woman balancing a basket atop her head, stepping gingerly down a path near the water’s edge. Will I get there in time? How will she react? What will the light be like? Is it worth the effort or should I just stick with the gorgeous scene that seems so intent to unveil something new with every passing second? I choose (quickly) and race to her, arriving just as she lowers the basket of dirty clothes from her head. I murmur “buenos días” but she doesn’t really see or hear me and I make a few quick snaps and decide to not intrude any longer into her very public but very personal work.

So I slowly walk back to the dock behind the Posada. I look quickly at my phone to see if there’s a picture. Maybe, I think. But I’m moved and definitely conflicted and I’m wondering about life and whether the woman likes hers and whether she has a good family and is happy.

Back at the dock, with lots of questions and really no answers except perhaps for the answer that is the image in my phone, I make a few more snaps, including a black and white of a fisherman already heading to shore with today’s catch. And a color self-portrait of my shadow in a cayuco (fisherman’s canoe). Perhaps to say to myself, “yes, you’re an outsider, but yes, you are here in this moment and you want to share what you see with others.”

And I promise myself, tomorrow I’ll take the Posada’s canoe!

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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
.
.
Shapeshifter
.
.
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. 

Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Parts 3 & 4

Today we bring you the next installment in the project Kass Mencher completed earlier this year on her perceptions of 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 in February. --Andrew Sullivan

All photos and text below courtesy of Kass Mencher.

 

JOY
explodes
into
day

.
(DOG RUNNING INTO LAKE)

At the lake, Lake Atitlán, you learn quickly that you are not the masters. And that you will do well to observe the rhythms of mother nature. She will richly award you with an abundance of time. There will be time enough to watch a dog frolic in the lake. You will have plenty of time to marvel as a duck bobs for lunch-time minnows and then struggles to scale the highest tree stump to be closer to the sun. You will even have 40 minutes on a Friday night to watch regimental columns of ants march away the dead carcass of a scorpion. At the lake, Lake Atitlán, there is time enough to watch, to wonder and to learn - to learn there is another way.

 

 


soft blanket sky
cover lullaby lake
cradle boat rocks
in 6/8 time
lullamenting
this morning
among mountains
and mist

.
.
While I am here
.
fears that follow
fade
beneath forever skies
evaporate
in the crossing
of an ancient lake
shrink
beside a fire and
brimstone volcano
pale
in the night light
light years away
fears that fallow
disappear
.
While I am here
.
.