Retired teachers to lead photo expedition in Mexico

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Three women leave a market in the Oaxaca region of Mexico in this photo by Sam Robbins. Robbins and her husband, Tom, will lead two groups to Oaxaca on educational photography expeditions this winter.

Retired teachers Tom and Frances "Sam" Robbins will take two groups to southern Mexico for Christmas and New Year's Eve to learn about photography.

"Every morning we'll have some kind of lesson and assignment," Sam Robbins said. "Each lesson will be geared toward a different way of using the camera or a different way of looking at things."

The Robbinses have taken several photography expeditions to the Oaxaca region in southern Mexico, and they have taught a similar photography workshop there before.

Sam Robbins said Oaxaca and the small village of Teotitlan del Valle provide an incredible backdrop for photography.

The villagers are descendants of the Zapotecs and speak an Aztec dialect. The village has a community of artists known for hand-dying and hand-weaving rugs, she said.

The women wear aprons and weave scarves into their hair braids. The colors on their scarves indicate which village they live in.

"It's delightful," Tom Robbins said. "You get the opportunity to see how people really live and what life is really like."

The trips are organized by Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator.

The first trip, from Dec. 22-29, is $1,495 per person, which includes lodging at a bed and breakfast, most meals and transportation between the village and Oaxaca, Sam Robbins said.

It features Christmas celebrations, which are much different than the celebration in the United States, Tom Robbins said.

"It's nice because Christmas is not about going shopping for gifts," he said. "It's strictly a religious holiday there. Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are spent with local families."

The first trip also features a visit to a radish festival in which local people carve everything imaginable out of radishes, from manger scenes to animals, Sam Robbins said.

The second trip, from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, is $1,195 per person, which includes lodging at a hotel, most meals and transportation between Oaxaca and local sites.

Sam Robbins said people who take the second trip will experience New Year's resolutions with a local family and will travel to permanent chapels in Teotitlan del Valle, where people commit themselves to projects for the following year.

During both trips, photographers will get to experience the culture, picking fresh vegetables from the local markets and helping to prepare dinner, she said.

In the afternoons, students will review their photographs and choose the best piece from their daily shoots to share with the group in the evening. She said the group will critique each photo and offer feedback.

Tom Robbins has been a photographer for 40 years. He recently retired from Columbus State Community College, where he was an architecture professor.

Sam Robbins has been a photographer for 20 years. She retired in 2013 from New Albany High School, where she taught photography and started the district's first high school humanities class.

To sign up for the trips to Mexico or for more information, visit