It’s Good Friday and our fifth portrait photography workshop day. Between the “on the fly” street photography of village life and religious processions, we visited the home and studio workshop of master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa in Teotitlan del Valle.
If you have ever sat for a family portrait in a photographer’s studio, you know how complicated it can be when four or five or six people get together to have their picture taken. When one person smiles, another can frown or someone can invariably have their eyes closed. It’s the photographer’s greatest challenge, I discovered, to keep everyone smiling at the same time and looking straight into the camera’s lens. Pan Comida today — Piece of Cake!
Fortunately for us, Federico Chavez Sosa, his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas, and their children Eric Chavez Santiago, Janet Chavez Santiago, Omar Chavez Santiago, and Eric’s novia Elsa Sanchez Diaz were great subjects. There was a lot of laughter going on during and between the takes.
Everyone in this family is a weaver. In addition to master weaver Federico, Dolores is also adept at the two-pedal floor loom, and all the children know how to weave. Eric is the director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Janet is the educational docent at the new San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center in the historic center of Oaxaca, Omar is a student entering university this fall, and Elsa is the administrator of an art glass blowing studio in San Augustin Etla.
What distinguishes this family is not only their knowledge about weaving and Oaxaca textiles, but their use of one hundred percent natural dyes to prepare the wool they use to weave rugs (tapetes). They prepare their own dye materials, using environmentally sustainable plant materials such as pecan nuts, wild marigold, pomegranates, indigo and the famous bug on the cactus plant, the cochineal.
We got both formal and informal photos. And, at the end of our hour together, we toasted with a bit of mezcal. The family operates Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca’s historic center one block from Santo Domingo Church in the courtyard at Av. 5 de Mayo #408. They are there almost every day except Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Check out our next photography workshop: Oaxaca Photography Expedition-Market Towns and Artisan Villages, set for summer 2012.