Oaxaca, Mexico, is famous for its Day of the Dead celebrations. You experience it and capture it for a lifetime of memories! This is cultural immersion travel photography at its best! Arrive Monday, October 27, depart Tuesday, November 4— 9 days, 8 nights, starting at $1,895 per person.
- Limited to 8 participants. Small Group. Personal Attention.
- Beginners and more experienced photographers welcome.
- Trailing spouse and cooking class options.
- Registration is now open!
This is our Fifth Day of the Dead Expedition in Oaxaca, Mexico. More than a tour, this is a hands-on photography workshop for learning and improving technique while you experience Oaxaca’s famed Day of the Dead rituals. By the end of the week, you will better use your digital SLR camera for visual storytelling and cultural discovery.
Your workshop leader is Frank Hunter, whose photographs are published in the New York Times, and are part of museum collections worldwide. For over ten years, Frank taught at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, North Carolina. He now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is represented by Thomas Deans Fine Arts gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.
This cultural immersion workshop tour offers you a deeper appreciation for the food, religious symbols, rituals, family celebrations both in the city and in the rural Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle. We take you into cemeteries, local homes, markets and cultural sites.
During our week together, we will review each other’s work, give feedback, and offer supportive critiques. The workshop includes a mix of class instruction and being out on the streets to capture the action. We offer structured group discussion and opportunities for daily coaching sessions with Frank.
Technical topics covered include using Lightroom photo editing software, natural light, exposure, manual camera settings, and night photography. Frank says he uses just enough technique to help you express a visual idea.
We emphasize documentary-style photography, an organic, spontaneous form of understanding the culture and people you are photographing.
About Frank Hunter
Frank grew up in the American southwest and spent his early years photographing people and landscapes of Mexico. He has taught at the university level for more than 20 years. Frank is a virtuoso photographer, as adept at digital photography as he is with creating 19th century style platinum/palladium prints.
Don’t be intimated! Frank also taught fundamentals of photography at Duke University. You can read more about him here:
And, if you want more, just Google Frank Hunter. You will get pages of citations!
Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change) and Optional Add-Ons
Day of the Dead Workshop Expedition 2014
Day 1, Monday, October 27: Arrive and check-in to our colonial-style hotel near the Zocalo and main walking street of Macedonio Alcala. Dinner on your own. Overnight Oaxaca.
Day 2: Tuesday, October 28: After breakfast, welcome and learning session on camera settings and exposure, we will go on a city orientation walk, visit markets, gilded in gold Santo Domingo Church, and enjoy a welcome lunch at one of Oaxaca’s slow-food restaurants. After a gala welcome lunch we will meet for a Lightroom tutorial to review the workflow that will get your images edited and moved to Dropbox. Overnight Oaxaca. (B, L) Dinner on your own.
Day 3, Wednesday, October 29: After breakfast and workshop session, we will tour Monte Alban archeological site and the pottery village of Santa Maria Atzompa. After lunch, you will have the afternoon to roam and capture Oaxaca street parades, and market vendors selling wild marigold, special breads, candies, and other Day of the Dead ritual necessities. We’ll meet in early evening to review our best of day work. Overnight Oaxaca. (B, L). Dinner on your own.
Day 4, Thursday, October 30: After breakfast and learning, session you will have the day on your own. Today the streets are abuzz with Day of the Dead revelers. Shops and galleries have extraordinary altars on display. The sand paintings in the Zocalo and Plaza de la Danza are not to be missed. Optional afternoon technical coaching session with Frank. We meet again in early evening before dinner to review best of day work. (B) Lunch and dinner on your own.
Day 5, Friday, October 31: After breakfast and a learning session on night photography, you will have the rest of the morning and early afternoon on your own. At 2:30 p.m. we depart for the famed Xoxocotlan cemetery for an extraordinary Day of the Dead extravaganza, with a stop first to visit an extraordinary, off-the-beaten-path Arrazola wood carver. Frank is with us every step of the way for coaching and technical support. This could be a late night, so be prepared! We will stay until at least 10 p.m., maybe later! Overnight Oaxaca. (B) Lunch and dinner on your own.)
Day 6, Saturday, November 1: After a late breakfast and a debriefing session to review your experiences at Xoxo, you will have the afternoon on your own. We depart later for the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle. Overnight Teotitlan del Valle. Includes breakfast, dinner. (B, D)
Day 6, Sunday, November 2: After breakfast and learning session you will share your best photos from the Xoxo cemeteries. Then, we will pair you with another workshop participant to share a traditional meal with a local host family and go with them to the village cemetery. This is an amazing cultural immersion experience to learn more about indigenous customs and traditions. We’ll see you back at our B&B after nightfall. Overnight Teotitlan del Valle. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. (B, L, D)
Day 7, Monday, November 3: After breakfast we will share experiences and photos of the day before in our last learning session. You’ll have the rest of the day on your own to meander and prepare your Best of Week photo presentation. We get together with a celebratory fiesta with invitations to our host families to join us. Overnight Teotitlan del Valle. Includes breakfast and dinner. (B,D)
Day 8, Tuesday, November 4: After breakfast, depart for your home countries. (B)
What You Should Bring
- Digital SLR camera with lens(es) — wide angle, zoom, and/or fixed focal point 50mm
- Tripod for night photography
- Laptop computer
- Lightroom software installed for organizing and presenting images (Note: If you are an experienced Photoshop user, you are welcome to use this software for photo editing)
- External hard drive
- External card reader
- Batteries (2) and battery charger
- Memory cards (at least 2) and data sticks
- Pen and notepad
- Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat
(Before the workshop starts, we will send you a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list, and other useful information.)
Cost: The base cost for the Expedition is $1,895. USD. This includes:
- All instruction and coaching
- 8 nights lodging, shared room with shared bath
- 8 breakfasts
- 3 lunches as specified in the itinerary
- 3 dinners as specified in the itinerary
- Transportation to villages and archeological sites included in the itinerary
- Entry fees to museums and sites specified in itinerary
- Gift to local Teotitlan del Valle host family
- Comprehensive pre-trip planning packet (via email)
The expedition does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips/gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, breakfasts and other meals not specified in the itinerary, and optional transportation.
Please indicate your preference.
[ ] Option 1–Base Cost: Double room with shared bath; $1,895. Deposit to reserve: $950.
[ ] Option 2: Single Supplement, private room with private bath; $2,295. Deposit to reserve: $1,150.
[ ] Option 4: Trailing partner/spouse. Bring them along. Even when they don’t participate in the workshop, they can enjoy all the group activities we have planned. $1,595
[ ] Option 4: Add-on Tuesday, November 4, Traditional Zapotec Cooking Class. Learn how to prepare Oaxaca’s famed mole sauce. $125, includes one night lodging on November 4, breakfast, lunch, dinner, all recipes.
[ ] Option 5: Add-on nights in Oaxaca, City at $145 per night per person.
[ ] Option 6: Add-on nights in Teotitlan del Valle at $55 per night per person.
About Our Accommodations
In Oaxaca City, we will stay in a lovely, highly rated intimate colonial-style hotel within a short walk to Santo Domingo Church, the Zocalo and all the major activities of the season. In Teotitlan del Valle, we stay in a family owned and operated guest house/posada where the meals are home-cooked and delicious.
Reservations and Cancellations
A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be made on or before August 1, 2014. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us you are ready to register with your lodging and option preferences.
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 August 1, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel on or before August 1, 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, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.
This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary and substitute instructors without notice.
Don’t let this workshop pass you by!
Special thanks to 2013 workshop participants Barbara Szombatfalvy, Donna Howard, Steve Dank, Luvia Lazo, Starr Sariego, Ron Thompson, Kate Kingston, and instructor Frank Hunter for contributing photographs posted here.
Extraordinary: Yanhuitlan, Oaxaca and Ceramic Artist Manuel Reyes
Off the beaten path and definitely a must-see, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan is a small Mixtec pueblo located about an hour-and-a-half north of Oaxaca city, off the Carretera Nacional toll road to Mexico City.
It is the home of an extraordinary Dominican Church whose massive stone architecture is reminiscent of the finest European churches, complete with flying buttresses and elegant arched ceilings. Six thousand indigenous people constructed it beginning in the mid-16th century.
Ceramic artist, sculptor and painter Manuel Reyes lives here, too, with his wife Marisela, also an accomplished artist, and their two children. They are what draw us to this place since their work is not sold in Oaxaca city. They have been exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and recognized in numerous contemporary art journals and books.
Manuel understudied with potters from throughout Oaxaca state and has been working with clay for fifteen years. He uses a gas kiln and fires his work at 900-1,200 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, unusual for the region where most clay work is low fire, cooked in a shallow wood-fire kiln. Manuel gets his red clay from pits in San Jeronimo Silacayoapilla, not far from his home in Tlaxiaco. He says the clay from here is the strongest, the best.
Yanhuitlan is Marisela’s home. This is where they have created their life and work together. The children are also collaborating, making small clay figures and painting on canvas.
The clay is painted with natural mineral pigments that Manuel gets from the local region. Some of his work is primitive. Other pieces are highly polished polychrome with three or four colors.
Pre-Hispanic designs on clay come from pottery shards that Manuel finds in the region.
Marisela and Manuel invite us to join them for lunch. It is a homemade red mole with rice, black beans, fresh tortillas, and another type of tortilla, rougher, denser, made with wheat flour by Marisela’s mother. I pass on the mezcal because I’m driving! The head sculpture is a napkin holder. Magnifico.
The church is one of the most important colonial sites in Mexico. Why was it constructed in this tiny town that seems to have little or no importance today? Yanhuitlan was on a major pre-Hispanic trade route and the Mixtec temple there was a very important indigenous religious site.
The Spanish imported the European silk worm and Yanhuitlan became the center of silk cultivation for export. Silk, along with cochineal, made Yanhuitlan an important economic center. Hence, this imposing church — extraordinary and definitely worth the visit in its own right. Note the Mixtec carving embedded into the church wall. A practice for attracting and converting locals.
Couple the stop with a visit to the home studio of ceramic artist and sculptors Manuel and Marisela Reyes and you have a very satisfying day-long excursion to explore the art and creativity that is Oaxaca.
How to get there: Go north from Oaxaca on the Cuota–toll-road–to Mexico City. Exit at Nochixtlan. Turn left and go over the toll road bridge. Continue northwest. Follow the road signs to Yanhuitlan. The church can be seen from several miles away. To find Marisela and Manuel Reyes, go to Aldama Street which faces the side entrance of the church. Drive until the end. Their house is across from the Calvario church (metal dome), which is part of the original convent. firstname.lastname@example.org or call 951-562-7008 for an appointment.
Special thanks to Francine, Jo Ann and Tom for guiding me there!
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Pottery
Tagged archeology, architecture, ceramics, Dominican Church, folk art, Manuel Reyes, Mexico, Oaxaca, pottery, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan, Yanhuitlan