Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ernesto Bazan Workshop in Oaxaca

I arrived in Oaxaca from Mexico City on October 17 to begin another photography workshop with my friend and mentor, Ernesto Bazan. That evening at Centro de Fotográphia Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Ernesto presented a video, produced by Juan De la Cruz, detailing the story behind the creation and production of his latest book, Al Campo. The book contains 88 gorgeous color images from the Cuban countryside, which Ernesto captured during the many years he lived there. After the video, Ernesto was given an award from the Center and answered many questions from the audience.
The following morning, the workshop began with participants from the USA, Mexico, Spain, Turkey and Romania. Ernesto’s approach to teaching make his workshops a unique and truly wonderful experience. In the morning we photographed in Oaxaca and then went to the nearby village of Atzompa where we were invited to view and photograph a Día de los Muertos play and procession at the elementary school.

Atzompa playground - Photo by Juliann Petkov
In the evening we returned to Oaxaca in time for the gala opening of an exhibition at the Centro de Fotográphia featuring the work produced by Ernesto’s students during the previous nine years of workshops in Oaxaca. The 86 images from Ernesto's students were beautifully framed and presented in three rooms with each person’s worked grouped together. I was pleased and honored to have five prints in the show.
Opening at Centro de Fotográphia - Photo by Sorin Frasina
Visitors at the exhibition in Centro de Fotográphia
After breakfast the following morning, we began the portfolio reviews and critiques of the previous day’s shooting. Only one of the eight participants had not previously done a workshop with Ernesto and she had the privilege of having her portfolio of several dozen images reviewed first. All of the students are involved in this process, and Ernesto generally asks them to comment on the images before he gives his own evaluation. This is an amazing learning experience and it allows everyone to train and refine their photographic vision.  Disparate opinions often arise and are discussed in detail to provide a tight edit of the work. During the next few days, all of the other participants also presented their portfolios for review and critique by the entire group.
Each morning students show selected photos captured on the previous day and, just as in the portfolio review, everyone is involved in evaluating the images. Only a few photos make it through the preliminary culling process, and every day the bar seems to be set a little higher. At the end of the workshop, the previously selected photos are reevaluated, culled once again and sequenced to give a final cohesive group of around 20 images, which Ernesto then posts in student galleries on his website.
Critique session
Ernesto also showed his work to be evaluated and critiqued. In previous workshops, his students helped him to selected and sequence images for both Bazan Cuba and Al Campo. In this workshop, we saw and critiqued wonderful black and white panoramic work from Cuba. Editing one’s own work is always a difficult task and this collaborative process greatly improves the selection of only the strongest images.
Viewing and critiquing Ernesto's panoramic work
During the following days we had the opportunity to photograph a variety of Día de los Muertos events, including an all-night stay at the cemetery in Atzompa and many delightful processions in Oaxaca and surrounding pueblos.  On November 5, the Bravo center presented another video by Juan De la Cruz which highlighted Ernesto’s previous workshops in Oaxaca. The workshop concluded the following day with a marathon editing and sequencing session of everyone’s images.  All in all, it was a magnificent experience, with lots of excellent photography, delicious food and wonderful camaraderie. 


Blogger marksilv242 said...

I've done two of Ernesto's workshops and they are wonderful, learning experiences. Thanks for the write up!

November 11, 2011 at 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I've been interested in working with Ernesto for several years now. After reading this I will make it a priority! :)

November 11, 2011 at 1:29 PM  

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