Mystery of the Day of the Dead

Trip Overview

This workshop is about finding mystery in the Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca and surrounding villages. This ancient ritual regard life and death through personal relations between the living and their dead ancestors. It is an intimate relationship that pays honor and keeps the memory of loved ones alive in the most intimate of emotional tributes to ancestors to support their spiritual journey.

Itinerary Highlights


PRICE: $ 1,995 (Tuition Only)

Pricing is per person and for tuition only. The price of the workshop is based on a minimum of 9 participants. For a group of 7-8 participants, a supplement of $295 per person might be required.

DATES: Oct 27 – Nov 3rd, 2019


Beyond the celebrations of street parades and the cleaning of gravesites to honor the ancestors, mystery abounds in Oaxaca. The Day of the Dead marks the high point of that mystery but even in the quietest moments and corners of the street, mystery is thick in the air of this beautiful small city and this is what we intend to include in our search for the mystery of all things.  We can find it in the parades, in people dressing up in costumes ranging from devils to angels, in the cemeteries that suddenly bloom with life, in the altars that families build in their homes to remember those who have passed. But mystery can also be found in the shadow of the night, the way the light explodes into a  certain window in the mornings, at the bus station, in an old man spending his days sitting on the bench in the main square, in portraits of people  whose lives are lived in secrecy, or the mysterious beauty of the Mexican people.  We will brainstorm about what you can photograph during this week to match your goals.  This week is about finding and encouraging your own visual voice.

The workshop is not only about finding and identifying mystery during one of the most mysterious and beautiful celebrations of life and death, but it is also about busting out, breaking rules, being wild at heart, and discovering things about ourselves.  Based on my Guggenheim-awarded Secret Garden of Lily La Palma, this is about being in a safe place where you can go wild with photography, reignite your love for it, reinvent yourself.

We have contacts throughout the community and can introduce you to these places and people. We will also visit families who build altars in their homes as well as the cemeteries where people clean and decorate the gravesites of loved ones before the Día de Los Muertos on Nov. 1 and 2.  Shooting time will be coupled with class time and daily one-on-one meetings with Maggie.  This is not your run-of-the-mill workshop where you just cover the same things anyone can photograph or are required to shoot in a particular way.

On the first day of class we will drive head first into brainstorming about ideas you want to work on. We will look at examples of how mystery is used as a major component in photography for inspiration and how you can find that in Oaxaca. You can start a new project during this week or continue to work on a project that you bring with you.

My goal in teaching this workshop is open a door that can liberate you as a photographer and freee you up from the rules imposed by others in terms of what photography should be. Our goal is visual liberation and making sure that you, the participant, leave Oaxaca with something you didn’t have before and which can have a long-term impact on your photography. 

About the workshop

Participants should bring 10 to 15 images of their own which we will review as a class that first day. In these images, Maggie will look for how you shoot and to see what you find interesting so she can decide how to be of the most assistance to you during the week. We will discuss ideas and focus them. Focusing an idea is one of the hardest things to do and this will be a helpful lesson. The remaining days will be spent shooting photos and coming to meet individually with Maggie to class to edit and discuss your progress and what might come next. Participants will work with a local lab to make prints of their edit with Maggie. We will meet as a class in midweek to share how everyone is progressing. We will also discuss the business aspects of photography. If participants are working on longer term projects, please bring them for Maggie to review with you. At the end of the workshop, the group will come together to edit prints for a book, that will feature everyone’s best images from throughout the week. See Maggie edit and sequence on the spot, ask questions, and join in. 

Who should attend?

This workshop is for intermediate to advanced photographers.


Participants must own their own camera equipment, including laptop for digital shooters, a backup drive, memory stick and sufficient memory cards and batteries to shoot for an entire day. Film shooters must bring their own film and photo paper, since both items are difficult to aquire and expensive to purchase in Oaxaca.

Dates & Location

The workshop starts the evening of Sunday, October 27th and ends in the evening of Sunday, November 3rd. Oaxaca, Mexico is served by Aeromexico and United Airlines, among other local airlines like Interjet and Volaris. Connecting through Mexico City, Cancun, Houston, or Atlanta is usually required.

We have secured a block of rooms at the Marques del Valle hotel for all participants wishing to stay there. To book your hotel room, you will need to contact the hotel directly by phone, they typically will show they are sold out on the internet. You may contact the hotel by phone at +52 951-514-0688 or by email to 


About the instructor

Maggie Steber profile

Maggie Steber


A Guggenheim Grant Fellow, Maggie Steber is an internationally known documentary photographer whose work has appeared in major magazines, newspapers and book anthologies as well as national and international exhibitions. She has worked in 69 countries specializing in stories of underrepresented people. Best known for her photo essays in National Geographic Magazine and her humanistic documentation of Haiti, she published Dancing on Fire: Photographs from Haiti with Aperture. Steber has worked as a picture editor for Associated Press, a contract photographer for Newsweek Magazine, and as the Director of Photography at The Miami Herald.  Her photographs are included in the Library of Congress, Richter Collectiion, and private collections. She has received four grants in support of her work and numerous awards including: The 2019 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for The Story of a Face, National Geographic Magazine; 2019 The Photographer’s Photographer from National Geographic Magazine; 2019 The President’s Award from the Overseas Press Club; 2017-2018 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow; 2015 National Geographic Magazine Woman of Vision; 2007 Knight Foundation grant for New American Newspaper Project; 2003 Medal of Honor for Contribution to Journalism, University of Missouri; 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Miami Herald coverage of Elian Gonzalez story; First Prize Spot News World Press Photo Foundation for Haiti; The Leica Medal of Excellence, 1988; Olivier Rebbot Award from the Overseas Press Club; Recipient Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant; and Recipient of the Ernst Haas Photography Grant

Create your Custom-Made Xpedition
to these and other destinations

Tell us more about where you want to go...