Tag Archives: portraits

Photo Essay: Oaxaca Color, Dye Pots and People

Framboyan tree in full bloom, Oaxaca in May

Flamboyant tree in full bloom, Oaxaca, Mexico in May

I don’t think you can make a dye from the flower of the Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant tree, but I want to open this blog post with a photo of this dazzler that is now in full bloom all over Oaxaca. Walk under it, look up. It is an umbrella of fire ombre.

Zapote negro fruit in a dye bath waiting for wool

Zapote negro fruit in a dye bath waiting for wool

This photo of the immature Zapote Negro fruit is floating in a dye bath at the workshop studio of Porifiro Gutierrez. It will color wool a soft gray brown. Juana Gutierrez tells me the color derived is the same whether the black persimmon pulp is ripe or not.

Alfredo at the spinning wheel

Alfredo at the spinning wheel 

Alfredo Hernandez Orozco works with both naturally dyed and synthetic fibers to make home goods and women’s clothing —  dresses, blouses, shawls and short ponchos (quechemitls). He is also experimenting with bamboo silk and palm.

Wheel of an old loom, still in use after years of repair

Wheel of an old loom, still in use after years of repair

Alfredo works at the four-harness, flying shuttle pedal loom that once belonged to his grandfather. It is more than 70 years old.

Nina wears a quechquemitl woven by Alfredo

Nina wears a quechquemitl woven by Alfredo

Nina, a textile researcher who asked me to introduce her to weavers who work in natural dyes, bought this quechquemitl that incorporates cotton threads dyed with cochineal and palo de aguila (mahogany wood bark).

Whole pomegranate, skin, seeds and all, makes a green dye on wool

Whole pomegranate, skin, seeds and all, makes a green dye on wool

Dye expert Elsa Sanchez Diaz

Elsa Sanchez Diaz is a knowledge resource for natural dyes

My friend Elsa Sanchez Diaz colors the cotton threads with natural dyes that Alfredo uses to weave the naturally dyed garments he sells at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.

Elsa and Nina with Federico and Dolores in their studio

Elsa and Nina with Federico and Dolores in their studio

Of course you recognize it! Cochineal!

Of course you recognize it! Cochineal!

Above, a hank of wool dyed with wild marigold (pericone) gets a second dye bath with cochineal to give it a bright red-orange color.

Veronica, Alfredo's wife, sews and embroiders the woven cloth

Veronica, Alfredo’s wife, sews and embroiders the woven cloth

Indigo Blue with a hank of pomegranate dyed wool, too

Indigo Blue with a hank of pomegranate dyed wool, too

One of the joys of visiting artisan studios to show visitors the natural dye textile and weaving process is that I always see and learn something new each time.

One-Day Natural Dye Textile and Weaving Study Tour

Dolores and Federico work together to dye the yarn to prepare it for weaving

Dolores and Federico work together to dye the yarn 

It’s not always easy to tell if weavers use natural dyes in the products they make. One way is to look at their hands! Look at their dye pots! Are they enamel or stainless steel? Are there large quantities of dye stuffs around waiting for the next dye bath?

Wild marigold removed from the dye bath

Wild marigold removed from the dye bath

Wool soaking in the color from wild marigold

Wool soaking in the color from wild marigold

And, for the last photo, I have to include one more of Veronica. I love her smile.

Experimenting with my new 75mm portrait lens

Experimenting with my new Zuiko 75mm portrait lens Olympus mirrorless camera




Oaxaca Portraits: Photography by Matt Nager

Good photography is a perfect balance between technical knowledge and creative expression. Matt Nager has mastered them both. As a photojournalist, his work has appeared in The New York Times, TIME, FORTUNE, Wall Street Journal, Outdoor Life, Mother Jones and other publications.  His talent combined with his youthful exuberance makes Matt an excellent teacher and all who participated in our 2015 Oaxaca portrait photography workshop learned a great deal from him.

In between scheduled learning and coaching sessions, and working with participants during photo shoots, Matt was able to do some photography of his own during our week together.  Here are the best that he selected to show at our fiesta presentation.

Matt Nager, Denver, Colorado


Oaxaca Portraits: Photography by Norma Hawthorne Shafer

For our culminating photography fiesta, we each chose the best twenty photographs from the entire week of hundreds of pictures we took during the Oaxaca People Portrait Photography Workshop.  What made it easier was that each day we selected our best ten photos, projected them for everyone in the workshop to see and talked about what worked and didn’t work. At each session we received valuable feedback from our knowledgeable, patient instructor, photojournalist Matt Nager, who also gave a Lightroom photo editing tutorial for those who wanted it.

In the eye of the beholder: each of us sees our world through a different lens. Though we photographed many of the same people this week, each of our photos offers an alternative image. That is what makes photography so interesting.

Norma Hawthorne Shafer, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico and Graham, North Carolina, USA

d_Jose Buenaventura, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs b_At Tierra Antigua n_Hugo_Cristobal_Danny  i_In the campo, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsk_Candelaria with Luvia, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsh_Waiting for Collectivo, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs g_Francisco y Angela, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs e_Luvia, Norma Hawthorne Shafer PhotographsMy own photography has improved over the years. This year I sold three photographs and invested in a 50mm prime lens that I tried once and put away. I forced myself to switch to it for most of this workshop week and was happy I did. I got used to moving my feet instead of a zoom lens, followed the natural light and shadows, asked people gently to turn their heads or bodies, place a hand, step up or step back.c_Ernestina, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsr_Lorenzo y Alonzo, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs  a2_Hanging Out, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsj_Norma Gutierrez, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsm_Lupita, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs f_In the hammock, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsl_Artist Studio, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsq_Fernando Sandoval, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs h_Coca Cola Man, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographsp_Antonio Camuña by Norma Hawthorne Shafero_Hugo, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs a_TukTukDriver, Norma Hawthorne Shafer Photographs

Are you interested in coming to Oaxaca for a Day of the Dead photography workshop in October 2015? Send me an email and let me know.

Oaxaca Portraits: Photography by Allen Ciastko

Allen Ciastko came to Oaxaca People: Portrait Photography Workshop taught by photojournalist Matt Nager because it focused on people. An avid photographer all his life and retired pediatrician, Allen and his wife come to Oaxaca from Canada each winter to escape the cold.  He commuted daily from the city to our workshop base in Teotitlan del Valle.

Using the more portable and easier to handle iPhone, Allen was able to get some excellent photographs with personal coaching from Matt. Some claim that the lens on the iPhone is vastly improved and many people have switched over from using heavier cameras for the convenience of this type of photography.

Allen Ciastko, Kamloops, B.C., Canada

Allen Ciastko photographs Allen Ciastko photographs IMG_4989 IMG_4951IMG_4757 IMG_4743 IMG_4802 IMG_4848 IMG_4944 IMG_4685 IMG_4611 IMG_4653 IMG_5106 IMG_5033 IMG_4585 IMG_4887 Allen Ciastko photographs IMG_4554 IMG_4970 IMG_4710

Are you interested in a Day of the Dead photography workshop? Let me know by email.

Oaxaca Portraits: Photography by Barbara Tili

Here is the Best of the Week from Barbara Tili, who was born and raised near Milan, Italy, moved to London, and has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for the last four years where she practices architecture.

During the Oaxaca Faces Portrait Photography Workshop in Teotitlan del Valle with photojournalist instructor Matt Nager, Barbara switched completely to manual mode from using the automatic setting on her camera.  Manual mode gives the photographer total control over making the photograph.

You get the soul of a person when they are looking at you, Barbara said.

Barbara Tili, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Door1-lr Farmer-lr Couple at the market-lr  Woman-lr Woman in pink-lr Woman at the market 3-lr artist 2-lr Beauty-lr Alonso-lr Carpet Man2-lr

Barbara became more comfortable approaching people for photographs. She learned to spend more time with each subject, ask them to change expression, look in a different direction, and move locations to achieve a fresh effect.

.Blue wall 3-lr Little girl-lr Man at the church-lr   Pink background-lr Woman 1-lr Red bench-lr Soledad1-lr Woman at the market 1-lr Policia-lr Woman 2-lr

Matt explains that the difference between street photography and portrait photography is how you interact with the subject. On the street you are taking photos on the fly, finding candids and the details of the scene to compose a nice picture.  Portrait photography requires dedicated time with your subject, attending to lighting, depth of field, aperture and shutter speed. It is seeing eye to eye.

Do you want a Day of the Dead 2015 photography workshop this October? We are hiring a new instructor! If yes, send me an email.