Easter in Oaxaca, Mexico: Semana Santa Photography Workshop

Wednesday, March 27 to Wednesday, April 4, 2013 – 8 days, 7 nights

Discover Oaxaca, use your camera to document the culture and traditions of this most important annual ritual, and immerse yourself in Zapotec village life.  Our expeditions are learning workshops designed to develop your photography skills while you have fun during a global travel experience!

Semana Santa – Holy Week – in Oaxaca, Mexico offers you a rich experience to explore and capture rituals that are practiced today much as they were 500 years ago in Medieval Europe.   They are somber, serious and spiritual, recreating the Last Supper, the Via Doloroso procession to the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ.   We arrive in time to take part in the processions of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and Easter Sunday mass.


Then, on the Monday following Easter Sunday, we will observe the local Zapotec tradition of Baile de los Viejos – Dance of the Old Men.   This is an 8,000 year-old indigenous village practice that ensures cultural continuity, rededication to community values and meeting the collective needs of all, and a mechanism to provide feedback to leaders about their performance as elected officials.  It is visually stunning and participatory.

We will be based in the Zapotec rug weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, where we will be welcomed into a family-owned and operated bed and breakfast inn, with delicious food and an intimate look into daily life.


Expedition Workshop Leader/Instructor is Leah Sobsey, MFA

Leah Sobsey is a nationally recognized, award-winning photographer.  She is also a photography program faculty member at the University of North Carolina—Greensboro (since 2003) and the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies (since 2002).  We selected Leah because of her exceptional teaching experience, her acumen and wide-ranging versatility as a photographer, her recognition as exhibiting artist, and because her work is held in private collections and museums throughout the United States.

Southern Photography blogger/photographer John N. Wall, says “… Sobsey is a first-class photographer, one of the Southern Photographers We Watch Out For, who makes hauntingly beautiful images while she is engaging in thoughtful and complex projects that never fail to enhance our perception of the world around us.  She shows an exceptional range in her work, from documentary work that involves it subjects in the production of their own images to straightforward images characterized by wit and ingenuity to alternative process work that reminds of us of the ways the act of photography transforms our perception of the world.


Leah received the MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (where she has taught) and the BA in anthropology and sociology from Guilford College.  To her credit, Leah was a teaching assistant to Mary Ellen Mark, Amy Arbus, Bob Sacha, and others while attending the Maine Photographic Workshops, where she graduated from and now teaches.  With visual artist Lynn Bregman Blass, Sobsey created the Visual History Collaborative.  VHC works with individuals, families, communities and organizations to create custom art through stories and artifacts — memories and mementos. This is a participatory and inclusive process that invites contributors to build history together.

About the Workshop/Expedition:  Experiential Learning

This is an educational program for beginners as well as more experienced photographers who want to learn more about the technical and creative aspects of their camera, and the art of making a compelling photograph.   Our groups are very small, limited to 10 people.  We are dedicated to giving you personal attention and coaching.  Whatever your skill level, you will gain the knowledge to do more with your camera and reflect what you see with greater creativity. Experimentation is encouraged as participants are expected to stretch, explore and test new ideas. Failures and mistakes are applauded as participants explore new territories and make exciting discoveries.

Build Your Photography Skills!  You Will Learn:

  • The fundamentals of your camera in order to create compelling photographs.
  • The Elements of Time and Perspective – manipulate camera shutter and aperture settings to give emotion to your images.
  • To see the light, the photographer’s basic tool.  Develop a greater appreciation and understanding for the quality of light.
  • The fundamentals of framing, composition and angle of view to create striking images- Work with form, line, light, shadow, shape and space.
  • The “Decisive moment” to capture the world in all its wonderment.
  • How the art of editing and sequencing to can create narrative and tell beautiful compelling stories.
  • To ask hard questions — The ethical and philosophical questions that come up for documentary photographers.

Preliminary 8-Day Itinerary

Day 1, Wednesday, March 27:  Travel to Oaxaca, check into our Teotitlan del Valle Bed and Breakfast Inn.  (Dinner on your own.)

Day 2, Thursday, March 28: Orientation, learning session, Maundy Thursday photography assignment, best of day photography review and critique. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)

Day 3, Friday, March 29: Learning session, Good Friday photography assignment, best of day photography review and critique. (Breakfast, dinner.)

Day 4, Saturday, March 30: Learning session, day in Oaxaca city.  Oaxaca city photography assignment.  Travel to/from Oaxaca by shared taxi.   (Breakfast included.  Lunch and dinner on your own.)

Day 5,  Sunday, April 1: Learning session, Easter Sunday photography assignment, best of day photography review and critique.  (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)

Day 6, Monday, April 2: Learning session, Dance of the Old Men photography assignment.  (Breakfast, dinner included.  Lunch on your own.)

Day 7, Tuesday, April 3: Learning session: editing and selection for final presentation.  Best of prior day review and critique.  Prepare for final Best of Week evening photo presentation. (Breakfast and dinner included.  Lunch on your own.)

Day 8, Wednesday, April 4:  Depart.

A Cultural Immersion Experience of a Lifetime That Includes:
  • 7 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
  • Teotitlan lodging in a family operated guest house
  • All instruction with one private coaching session
  • Transportation associated with the itinerary
  • Comprehensive travel insurance as a partner with the Council on International Educational Exchange that includes $250,000 accident and sickness medical expense. Yes, we include this for all participants as part of your registration fee!
  • Optional for an added cost of $110 per person: Natural Disaster and Political Evacuation as well as Trip Cancellation and Interruption
What You Should Bring

  • Your energy and enthusiasm
  • Digital SLR camera
  • Laptop computer
  • Software for organizing and presenting images (such as Lightroom)
  • Batteries and battery charger
  • Camera Memory card(s) and data stick
  • Pen and notepad
  • Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat
(Upon registration, you will receive a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list and other useful information.)
Cost: The basic cost for the trip is $1,495. USD per person. Deposit of $750 to reserve. This includes six nights lodging double occupancy with shared bath. Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much! It does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips/gratuities, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals as specified in the itinerary, site entry fees, and transportation.
Four Add-on Options
  • Option 1: Shared room/double occupancy with private bath. $1,695. Deposit to reserve: $850.
  • Option 2: Single Supplement, private room with private bath; $1,995. Deposit to reserve: $1,000.
  • Option 3: Add more nights lodging in Oaxaca City either before or after the workshop. Please specify dates. $145 per night.
  • Option 4:  Supplemental trip cancellation insurance, $110.

Reservations and Cancellations. A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be made by November 16, 2012. Payment is accepted with PayPal. We will send you an itemized invoice.

Please understand that we make lodging and transportation arrangements months in advance of the program. Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts. If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After November 16, 2012, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel on or before November 16, 2012, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com. We accept payment with PayPal only. As soon as you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a PayPal invoice. Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary and make instructor substitutions without notice.

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