Tag Archives: portraits

Oaxaca Photographer Luvia Lazo Captures Guelaguetza Style for Vogue

I first met Luvia more than ten years ago in Teotitlan del Valle, where she was born and raised and where I have lived since 2005. She was a budding young photographer then who had heart, soul, an artistic eye, creative energy and poor equipment. I invited her to participate at no cost in our 2013 Day of the Dead Photography Workshop in exchange for helping me arrange personal visits into the homes of local artisans. We were focusing on portrait and street photography, so having Luvia’s help was invaluable. Our participants loved Luvia and we raised funds among us to buy her a good Nikon DSLR camera. From there, it was only a matter of time!

In the last week, Vogue magazine published an article about the traje or indigenous garments of the villages represented in the folkloric extravaganza of Oaxaca called Guelaguetza. Luvia did the photography! It is a beautiful rendering of indigenous textiles and their meaning.

And, in March 2022, The New Yorker magazine published a feature about Luvia and her work, highlighting her innovative camera style in a photo essay about the elderly in Teotitlan del Valle — a tribute to her grandmother whom I knew and who helped raise her.

I’m in awe of who she has become and the trajectory of her accomplishments. I met her grandmother, who was frail and elderly, just before she passed. I know and admire her parents who operate a butcher shop in our village and sell at the daily market. They are warm, generous and hard-working people who are supportive of their daughter’s talents.

I took these photos in 2013 and at the time used my wasband’s name, which I changed to Schafer in 2016.

To demonstrate Luvia’s talent and her potential, these are the photos she took in 2013, too.

Note: We have a few spaces open for 2022 Day of the Dead Culture Tour. A perfect time to photography this pre-Hispanic Oaxaca ritual of honoring loved ones who have transitioned to the beyond.

The Virgin of Guadalupe Photo Essay: From Primitive to Painterly

The Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City is featuring a special exhibition about the Virgin of Guadalupe.  The images include primitive figures in carved wood, elaborate paintings and wood carvings from church altars, woven and embroidered textiles, and contemporary 2016 photographs by Federico Gama taken at the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Why am I so taken with this exhibition? Certainly not from a religious point-of-view, but from one interested in the cultural expression of this great nation. The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico’s own, personal patron saint.

To me, she is a woman of strength and valor, able to transform and uplift a nation. She is Mother Earth, fertility and blessing. Her figure transcends and tricks the Spanish overlord. She is disguised as and more than the Virgin Mary. Her roots are indigenous. She belongs to the people.

I am also taken with the various artistic expressions of her figure, how she is depicted: from facial expressions, use of color and shadows on the folds of her gown, the portrayal of the angel at her feet, from simple to elaborate. It seems that everyone had their own version of the Virgin of Guadalupe vision.

As my friend, artist Lena Bartula says, In Guad We Trust. 

Virgin of Guadalupe Exvoto

I hope you enjoy this visual expression of Mexican life.

Stone church carving

Ceramic plate from Patzcuaro

A Federico Gama portrait

Even the Virgin wants us to drink Pepsi

Close up of the angel, 18th century

A book engraving

One artist’s version with apparitions and flowers

Another version with a different cloak and coloring

Note the more elaborate Mexican flag on the angel’s wings

A polychrome figure, perhaps from Oaxaca

A Federico Gama portrait at the Basilica de Guadalupe

Inlaid oyster shell portrait

Exvoto, giving thanks to the Virgin for a car purchase

Embroidered textile, huipil

Ceramic and alpaca metal from Guadalajara

A primitive painting, every bit as meaningful

Formalized altar construction



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.