Give Me Five Gallery
Oaxaca, Mexico 2016
® Archana Kumar
I remember clearly the first time I heard the music of Panfilo and his five brothers, the music of the Huehuentones. It was in the village of Carrizal in an open hall clinging to the hillside. Actually I felt more than heard the music. Felt it in the pure joy and abandon with which the masked people were dancing. And then I experienced it again and again and each time the intensity of my response was the same. ??I know it didn’t happen by chance. It happened because Ernesto has earned the trust and love of the wonderful Mazateco folk. And because of that we weren’t just photographing them like curious outsiders. We were on the inside, being with them, and the moments just revealed themselves. ??And it was not just the Huehuentones that will stay with me forever. There was the Estevedo family celebrating the 7th death anniversary of their father. Ernesto, the people-whisperer, whispered some words to them, and before we knew it, they had invited us to lunch and drink with them and then accompany them to the cemetery. I cried with the wife as I saw and felt her emotions at the cemetery.
Ernesto’s tough editing, though initially unsettling, has helped me see better. As I look through the viewfinder I can hear Ernesto’s voice saying ‘what’s going to fuck up your picture’ or it’s not enough or this image is too static or ‘there’s too much lead in this picture’. What I liked most about the editing sessions was the two way editing. Ernesto not only helped us edit our pictures but invited us to edit his as well as those of some of the other students whose work will be come future books. So we were all equally vulnerable and in Ernesto’s words all he does is to facilitate the best in us. That’s the mark of a great teacher.
® Calvin Chen
“La neta del planeta” a Mexican phrase uttered by my good friend Juan de la Cruz during our myriad discussions on life and photography. It means the truth of the truth. And I think it encapsulates what we have been trying to accomplish here. These workshops have evolved into much more than photography; they have become exercises into finding and connecting to the truths that surround us, and as importantly the truths that lie within us.
Juan one of the most talented photographers I know, has been working on his unique personal project of Mexico. The photos can be dark and ominous, but incredibly moving and authentic. He recalls the time when his photo were hung on his wall for months, until one day he woke up and faced the reality that each and every photo was a reflection of himself. He had fear, fear of what these photos reveal of him, fear for what was in his soul.
I told Juan, there was no reason for fear, because each of us possesses so many layers upon layers, that few ever bother to delve into, and even fewer have the courage to show. Photography has become for us that amazing vessel into our soul.
My photos have changed. My vision has changed. My life will never be the same.
To Ernesto and Juan, I could never have asked for more.
® Frank Baudino
I’ve taken many workshops with Ernesto, perhaps as many as fifteen. But in no previous workshop has my photographic vision changed so radically. Photography is regarded by many as a medium to record and, sometimes, to interpret. It is generally regarded as a medium to preserve reality and, at most, to enhance it. Consider Ansel Adams’ landscapes: highly manipulated, yes, but still firmly anchored to reality. Photography is not generally classified in the same genre as, say, sculpture or painting. But an influential photographer once told me that photography is actually a plastic art and during this Oaxaca workshop with Ernesto that realization finally dawned on me.
I am beginning to learn to take photographs not of things as they are but of things as they can become. Black and white photography is an ideal medium to use for this—it is less tied to reality than color and it can be profoundly manipulated to express meaning. This is still a great challenge for me. Over years of practice in the darkroom and with Photoshop I have developed the skill to visualize a monochrome image in many different tonal and contrast interpretations.
But I still struggle to see an image as an altered, quintessential reality. At least now I have a better idea of what I am looking for.
Hippocrates must have had photography in mind when he said, “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult.”
I am profoundly grateful to Ernesto, Juan, and the other students in this workshop for the support and guidance they gave me in helping me advance my vision. I am also profoundly grateful to the wonderful people of Oaxaca, Huaultla, Mazatlan, and other small pueblos who gracefully tolerated our group of crazy gringos.
® Kios Garcia
There are no precise words to convey my gratitude to life for allowing me to have lived this experience that without doubt will be very special in my way of looking at photography and life.
From now on my way of photographing at my own people has changed and I have understood that it is very important to continue photographing. I’m very thankful to Ernesto for guiding us along this path, which is far from easy. To me it seems incredible that he always has something or someone to guide him and without a doubt Ernesto has a gift for teaching. It seems uncanny his ability to relate to people y to make friends so fast and elegantly.
If someone has the opportunity to take this workshop I can assure you that will totally change his or her way to see things. I leave you with a sentence that I’ve heard from Ernesto.
® Linda Omelianchuk
“Everything that takes place around us can be a source of inspiration.” Ernesto Bazan
This is the second year I have had the privilege of being with Ernesto in Mexico, and experienced the blessings of his advice to return to photograph in the same location. I felt the beauty and kindness of the Mexican people again, yet in new ways, as I saw more deeply into their culture and daily lives. Our talented and trustworthy guides, Ernesto and Juan, used their perceptiveness with people and their instincts for spontaneous situations to fill our days with authentic photographic opportunities. Thank you for leading us, yet being one of us.
And of course, there is the valuable time spent in critiques each day. It is amazing how Ernesto can see inside a photographer’s heart and mind as he edits our photographs. I love that he is so honest as he explains details of why a photograph does not work, and on the other hand, what is right in the few images that are meaningful. I want to keep coming back to be with a caring man who understands and shares what is important life, and also happens to be an inspiring photographer.
® Odette Veneziano
True magic and miracles were created in Mexico…inspired by the people of Mexico, Ernesto, our maestro, and my fellow students on this sacred Mexican journey (thanks to Linda, Archana, Kios, Calvin, Frank, Rob, Juan, and, of course, our leader, Ernesto). My heart and head are still filled with the experiences of our journey deep into the Oaxaca countryside for the ‘Dia de los muertos’ celebrations. Celebrations always move me but being able to see every day moments are the real celebrations.
This was my first workshop with Ernesto, and I am confident it will not be my last. I loved every precious minute of it and hungry to make more magic with my photography and go beyond what is in front of me using the blessed gift of my eyes, mind & heart in my work that I can share with the world. I have taken other photography workshops where I have learned and been inspired, but this experience different than the others. The wisdom and inspiration created during our 14 days together came from believing and seeing in a different way that Ernesto and my fellow students helped me (and all of us) to deliver. Ernesto’s energy, passion, insight and heart made each one of us go further to create meaningful and stunning work that shows the world the beauty and soul of the people and places we were witness to. I am not the same person or photographer because of being Mexico with Ernesto and team. Brava Ernesto for truly a life changing experience.
® Rob Putseys
It was back in 2012 when I accidentally stumbled upon Ernesto Bazan’s photography and workshops. I read an enthusiastic article about the photography and life of Ernesto in a Flemish magazine, illustrated mainly with photographs of his Cuban ‘Al Campo’ series. As I usually do with things that strike me, I kept this article and bookmarked his website.
At the time I was member of a local amateur photography club. I left the club a while ago, because I didn’t like their way of looking at photography, and the importance they gave to making ‘beautiful’ pictures, or making them beautiful by Photoshop interventions. But I didn’t want to stop expressing what I saw and felt about life through photography, and was still eager to learn how I could develop my style.
On the internet there is a big offer of workshops run by professional photographers. Returning to Ernesto Bazan’s site, I felt he stood out of the pack, especially because of the gallery he kept of his students’ photographs, dating back as far as 2002. I decided to register for his 14-day Oaxaca workshop, long enough, I thought, to sharpen or even change my photographic vision.
It turned out to be the best choice I could have made, thanks to Ernesto’s personality and commitment. He is really demanding, pushing you beyond the boundaries of what you think you’re capable of. He makes you search for undiscovered qualities within yourself. His insistent engagement and his immense energy towards our photographic skills and our personal growth amazed me. This workshop was not only a photography course, but also a lesson in life.
Besides the daily group editing, we had the privilege to discover and discuss new photographic projects by Ernesto and other group members, the more experienced ones.
Another way to sharpen one’s artistic vision. This Oaxaca workshop was the 16th in a row. We had the privilege to stay in small villages in the Sierra’s around Oaxaca, and to witness the local age-old traditions still alive.
In one of his mails before I took the decision to register for the workshop, Ernesto wrote: “I think I can help you developing more of a poetic and personal language” and he succeeded! Before leaving Oaxaca, Ernesto gave me the advice to keep photographing, not only in far countries, but also in my own country and city. I’m following his advice, but still hope to meet Ernesto and his fellow photography students soon again in some other BWP workshop.