A photography workshop through indigenous Mexico
note: this is a “female-first” trip, meaning it’s currently aimed at female photographers (or female-identifying) but if the trip doesn’t fill, we will look at opening it up to all genders.
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We’re heading to incredible Oaxaca for a photography and humanitarian workshop with several amazing initatives. Oaxaca City itself is a short 90 minute flight from Mexico City which makes it an easy connection – but despite being almost ‘too easy’ to get to, it’s bursting at the seams with colour, life, history, politics, art, creation, and some of the best food in all of Mexico. Despite having so much to offer, the provice of Oaxaca is the 2nd poorest in Mexico – 61% of the population is cosidered at or below the poverty line – and more than 50% of the population identifies as indigenous.
On top of all this, Oaxaca is a common stopping-over point for refugees from countries further south who are headed north to the USA border. For this reason, our current NGO partner is COMI – they provide housing, education, councelling, legal council, clothing, and activities for children to refugees fleeing their home countries and heading north. They try to prepare these families for what is to come, and give them a sense of normalcy, however briefly. We will be conducting basic photography courses for the children of these families, and training the staff to offer photography as an activity ongoing.
When not volunteering our cameras and hearts to a local NGO, we will head out on meaningful excursions run by an ethical, sustainable, and culturally respectful tour company. Each excursion is specifically selected for its impact on locals (positively), its authenticity, and its potential for photogenic scenes. Imagine: local women with indigo hands dipping local wool into vats of dye; spending an afternoon sipping mezcal at a pioneering women-run mezcal farm (mezcal = the cousin of tequila); and attending a little known but wild Carnival festival where local paint themselves black, blue or silver and don horns, skulls, and masks to celebrate before Lent begins.
This is all in addition to exploring Oaxaca itself – colourful, thumping with life, cobbled streets and mountains behind, buzzing markets and vendors, hopping with breweries and mezcalerias, and producing some of the finest food in mexico.
Ladies – it’s gonna be a trip. It’s being kept to just females (or female-identifying) as the trip but if for some reason we don’t have a full team of women, we will then open the trip to all genders. Why female-first? Female photographers, especially within the travel realm, have to work twice (or more!) times as hard to make space for themselves in the industry. We also tend to have different goals (sometimes) from male photographers, are often (but not always) bent towards story/storytelling/evoking emotion over pure technical success, and are often on a personal journey alongside our creative journey.
Is this trip difficult?
This trip is physically moderate. There will be walking each day, climbing to viewpoints, but at this time no major hikes or difficult climbs await us. Stairs, hills, and walking the streets will be common, and some effort to reach a viewpoint will be required. But overall the city is flat and there are no major hikes. Some ruins, some cliffs, some farms, etc .
This trip will have some emotional demands. We all know the refugees heading from central america have a lot ahead of them to face. We will no doubt feel pulled into their stories and feel some of their burden. Our challenge will be to use that pull and that weight to shake up those around us, our neighbours and communities, into action. To use our images to open people’s eyes and hearts. And of course to help those we meet explore and find a slice of solace in photography, storytelling, and creating art.
Oaxaca is a short 90 minute flight from Mexico City, which is a huge hub airport. Getting there is pretty easy!
Food is going to be out of sight. Oaxaca is a culinary destination for both forwarding thinking takes on Mexican food, as well as honoring ancient recipes and indigenous culinary traditions. Get ready for some EATS. It’s going to be lip-smackingly good.
Accom will be pleasant, quiant, safe, and clean.
Level of safety here is very good. Don’t roam the streets alone at night, don’t flash tons of cash, but these are rules for just about anywhere.
To some extent, this is a trick question. We are open to ALL skill levels, ALL cameras, and ALL photographic experience. The heart of our trips is giving back, exploring together, and fostering photographic growth (whatever that will look like for you). We’ve hosted novices enthusiasts with entry level gear, and professional documentary film-makers – on the same trip!
Specifically speaking of Mexico, this trip is best suited to photographers keen to photograph people, scenes, color, texture, and life. You’ll have a chance to photograph: street scenes, street portraits, cityscapes, ruins, rural scenes, and indigenous culture. We will have some time with ruins and rural landscapes also.
A Breakdown of the Tour
Here’s the scope of our epic trip to Mexico:
Arrive to Oaxaca and get settled. The first few days of the trip we will spend with COMI learning about issues for refugees heading north and teaching photography to the community (and the staff). We will also tour Oaxaca city and explore street and market photography. Then, we parter with Tlayudona, a repsonsible, ethical, and uplfiting tour company that seeks to empower all the projects they do exchanges with. They themselves will be becoming an NGO soon! Through them we will take part-in some amazing women-led initatives: female mezcal farmers and crafters, female weavers and dyers, native corn growers / preserving traditional tacos, and much more.
Finally, on the last day of the tour, we will get to experience a small, but wild little Carnival in a nearby town. Here we will get to see the parade of frightening masks and painted bodies that come out to ‘scare’ demons away before the start of lent! It’s a growing event gaining more eyes on it every year, but for now remains fairly small and unknown. Expect black, silver, and blue bodies, wild masks, and a lot of chances to take street portraits!
What is Included?
All Ground Transportation
All Accommodation and Meals
All Entry Fees and Guides
All Photo Instruction
A Donation to the NGO
What is Not?
Passport and Visa
Alcohol and Souvenirs
The NGO: COMI
COMI is a nonprofit organization that works with migrants in the city of Oaxaca. We are a shelter for those transiting through Oaxaca or those seeking asylum in Mexico. Our guests are involved in many of COMI’s activities and are an active member of our community during their stay. We strive to create a respectful, peaceful, and safe environment for all who enter through our doors.
We believe that Central American migrants should have the right to develop their own lives, emotionally, socially and financially. At COMI we are focused on providing our full attention to migrants in order to better understand their current situation and unique struggles in order to work alongside to help address such issues. We strive to provide assistance in all facets of life, psychological, legal, medical and economic, through our committed community network and through our supportive and sensitive volunteers; with continuous learning and monitoring.
We run a shelter that can hold 45 men, women, and families. We provide food, assistance for those registering as migrants in Mexico, advice for those carrying on north to the USA, as well as workshops including gardening, cooking, music, and art classes.
The causes and reasons for migrating are very diverse and varied, however, the general person that seeks assistance at COMI originates from Central America, primarily Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, where conditions of inequality, violence, economic strife, and other forces that are out of their control, causes them to migrate. For such reasons, a migrant decides to undertake this difficult, dangerous, and long journey seeking refuge and a dignified life.
During this journey, throughout Central America and Mexico, migrants become very vulnerable to organized crime, and most will experience some sort of violation, extortion, kidnapping, and/or robbery.
Shelters such as COMI are a respite during this journey. A secure, peaceful and dignified place to rest and gain more information for choosing the right path forward.