Ann Brooks Photography

Photojournalism, art photography, studio happenings & resources

Fiesta of the Virgin of Candelaria in Oaxaca

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February 2nd is Fiesta of the Virgin of Candelaria here in Oaxaca, and I understand in all of Mexico. It is the special day when families dress up their baby Jesus figures and carry them to church to get blessed. Some dress them at home but, as it turns out, some go into the markets to have special vendors dress them.

… I discovered the Jesus dress vendors in Mercado Juarez quite by accident. Late in the afternoon I wandered down there because, though I had been in Oaxaca several times before, I had not visited that market in recent years. Much to my surprise, I saw several women with nearly naked Jesus dolls, waiting in line at two market shops where they were dressing the dolls in elaborate clothes, some regal, some quite sweet. I stayed, watched the process for some time taking pictures to record the event.

After taking a number of photos of the dolls being dressed, I decided I had to finish the story by following some of the dolls and their owners to church for the blessing. I loved the photo of the young woman in pink heading to church with her Jesus doll in a bag, peering out!

The last photo on the lower right is of the wife of the owner of La Olla Restaurant, newly back from church and the blessing of her baby Jesus which she is returning to the display case.

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I am grateful to Carole Turkenik who, after more than thirty years living in and out of Oaxaca, has written “Oaxaca Tips“, a through and unique compendim of interesting places, happenings — including this event, shopping, restaurants in Oaxaca to share her insights.

Written by annbrooksphoto

March 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm

To my surprise, I’m doing jewelry photography!

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Before I got into serious photography I was a jeweler and always depended on a professional, Hap Sakwa, to photograph my nationally reputed fine art jewelry. I had very high standards, not only for my jewelry, but for the photography that represented it. Here are examples of Hap’s photography and my earlier jewelry.

~ jewelry: Ann Brooks, photos: Hap Sakwa

By last summer, and for the last five years I’d been solely a photographer. In August I was puzzling over what to do with a substantial stash of beads I still had. Maybe sell them.? To whom? Then I had a better idea. Use them to make jewelry and sell it to get a return on the beads. Beaded jewelry was a come-down after having been a fine art jeweler. For physical reasons I couldn’t do that any more, so hey, why not have fun doing beaded jewelry? And in addition to my studio at Art Works Downtown, why not sell it online?

So, I’ve been having a great time designing and making beaded jewelry. Then I had to face the challenge of how to do my own jewelry photography. Sure, I’m a photographer, have a good camera but jewelry photography is a real speciality, needing equipment, lighting conditions and experience. Research on the web brought me to these great videos by NYC photographer, Michael Seto on how to photograph jewelry. I adapted some of Michael’s ideas to my own situation, determined not to use traditional lighting, but the diffused natural light coming through the bay windows in my living room.

Teaching myself the ropes of jewelry photography has been a steep learning curve and I’m still learning. So far, I’ve learned a lot about using my Canon 40D that I didn’t know before and a some new things about using available light. Though you can see lots of my jewelry photos here on my zibbet.com shop pages, here are a few examples.

Written by annbrooksphoto

January 7, 2010 at 2:29 am

Textile Museum of Oaxaca – Museo Textil de Oaxaca

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In the heart of the city of Oaxaca is the only textile museum in Mexico. Museo Textile de Oaxaca is in a restored grand 18th Century home. Privately funded, the museum opened early in 2008.

Though the museum’s exhibitions often feature the work of Oaxacan weavers and needle craftspersons, this October they mounted an impressive exhibition of the Guatemalan textile collection of René Bustamante.

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Museum director, Ana Paula Fuentes Quintana introducing René Bustamante during the opening reception for the exhibition of his Guatemalan textile collection.

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One of the museum’s main missions is to provide resources to Oaxacan weavers and designers. While I was there, a natural dye workshop was taking place.

In addition to education, the museum provides a library and textile restoration. It is not unusual to find a weaver from one of the villages surrounding the city of Oaxaca is demonstrating their techniques in the atrium of the museum.

Click here for the museum’s website.

Written by annbrooksphoto

November 12, 2009 at 2:56 am

Fighting poverty with micro finance in Oaxaca villages

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Last week I joined a group who went to visit women who are struggling entrepreneurs in the village of Teotitlán del Valle outside of Oaxaca City in Mexico. The village has been, for generations, a weaving village. Five of the women we visited are, in fact weavers.

We went with Investours, “tours that fight poverty”. Our guide was Carlos Hernandez Topete, co-founder of the non-profit organization. Carlos, a native of Oaxaca with a business degree from Boston University met Ashwin Kaja, currently studing law at Harvard and who had been researching how to blend tourism and micro finance. Carlos saw a way that Ashwin’s concept could be applied to villiages surrounding Oaxaca and in 2008 they created Investours. Click here to find out more about the organization and how you can participate. [March  2010, Investours changed their name to En Via and the link is to their new website.]

ABrooks_091003_002We visited two groups of three women in their own home studios where they showed us what they were making to sell and explained why they needed a loan, typically $100 to $150 US.

In the first group was Yanet Bagan who makes jewelry and uses the proceeds from sales to pay for transportation to be able to continue school as higher grades are some distance from the village. Yanet needed money to buy more of two types of wire. One a silver color, the other black. With it she will continue to be able to make more of her stunning wire-work earrings.

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Teresa Lopez was the first of four weavers who needed a loan to buy more yarn that is already spun and dyed. Though many weavers had done their own carding, spinning and dying of the wool, they now feel it is more efficient to have others do that time-consuming part of the process so that they can spend their time weaving.

ABrooks_091003_045Teresa Sosa was the third woman in the first group. Also a weaver, she wanted a loan so she could buy already spun and dyed yarn.

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In the second group of three, Soledad “Chole” Martinez (right) is a weaver, doing contract weaving for other weavers. However, because work is sometimes slow,for two years she has been selling Avon products to supplement income. She needed a loan in order to buy a small table to display her Avon products on in the village’s market place.

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Guadeloupe Contreras and Juana Bazán, both weavers each wanted loans to buy ready-spun and dyed yarn.

After visiting the two groups of three woman artisans, we went to a restaurant for a traditional Oaxican meal, At the end of the meal we discussed the groups, what their needs were and decided between us to which group our tour money would be given as an interest-free loan. In the end, it was agreed that the first group should be given the loan this time, but we all wanted to see Chole (the Avon lady in the second group) get her table and happily contributed a little more, specifically earmarked for that purpose.

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Click for Investours Facebook page ~ for Investours website ~ or email: see below.

NOTE: [March  2010, Investours changed their name to En Via and the link is to their new website. Email for emily is now — emily at envia.org.]


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The many cultural splendors of Oaxaca-part 1

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During my first week in Oaxaca this year, it seems every day there have been amazingly diverse cultural or poiltical happenings .

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Last Saturday afternoon in the Zocalo, among many happenings, there was a clown entertaining people next to the Red Cross teaching artificial respiration in front of the Cathedral — saving bodies in front of the place where they save souls.

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Sunday at Santo Domingo Museum was a gallery opening for the work of Lola Cueto, Mexican painter, printmaker, puppet designer and puppeteer. Oh yes, and she made beautiful tapestries.

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The many cultural splendors of Oaxaca – part 2

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More happenings during my first week here … immediately before the gallery opening a group marched down Acala protesting for women’s right to make their own decisions regarding abortion. Even in this Catholic country, this might not have been surprising in Mexico City, but here in more conservative Oaxaca, I suspect it is unusual.

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Monday night in the Teatro Juarez, we heard a Mozart mass with the Oaxaca Symphony Orchestra and civic chorus.

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Tuesday evening on an open air stage next to Santo Domingo Church, we saw ballet folklórico with several different groups performing, the largest of which I had seen here last year, same time (of the year), same place.

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And, oh yes, during the earlier part of each week day we have four hours of Spanish language study at Instituto Cultural Oaxaca.

Written by annbrooksphoto

October 6, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Panasonic LX3 – a great pocket or purse camera

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In recent years I’ve experienced a great deal of frustration finding a camera small enough to carry all the time without having to make too many  compromises. Finally I think I found one I can live with.

The Panasonic’s LX3 has a lot going for it. Small. Light. RAW option. Image stabilized lens. It’s fabulous in low light situations. Downside is that it’s white balance at times leaves much to be desired. So far, I’ve only been shooting JPG files, so I don’t know if some of the strange color casts would be less and correctable with a RAW file converter.

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Sunday I took the LX3 to Marin Farmers Market to give it a spin. Here are some of the results. The automatic white balance does tend toward magenta casts at times as is evident with the peach tasting bar. In the grape shot it is hard to know how much is the camera’s tendencies and how much is the glow of the umbrella above.ABrooks_090906_041ABrooks_090906_020
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September 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm