The Enduring Appeal of San Miguel for Santa Fe Photographic Workshops

By Melyssa Holik

Reid Callanan, director of Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, first visited San Miguel de Allende in the autumn of 2000 when he was seeking to widen the scope of Santa Fe Workshops into a new location in Mexico. Although Reid had traveled often in Mexico, San Miguel stood out to him right away.

“It reminded me of a small European city. I wasn’t expecting that and it was a delightful surprise,” said Reid, as he recalls his first visit. “I also remember being impressed by the closeness of the expat community and the local Mexican community. I sensed this level of respect and tranquility. There was an acceptance of the dual cultures in the town.”

Reid immediately knew San Miguel was the place to expand the programs of Santa Fe Workshops, noting the beautiful parks, the historic architecture, and the vibrant colors. But most of all, he says, it’s about the residents and the culture. “I think the residents of San Miguel make it a really intriguing place to photograph. For the most part, people don’t mind taking time out of their day to chat, to pose, and to engage with our photographers.” He goes on, “There are many wonderful fiestas and national holidays, lots of very colorful celebrations that are ideal for photographers.” And, he adds with a smile, “There’s a great love of life in Mexico, and they let it show in the way they walk through their daily lives.”

This year, Reid is particularly excited to return to San Miguel—as an instructor. Having spent 40 years immersed in the world of photography workshops, every five or six years he takes the time to teach a photography workshop himself. He’ll be teaching his signature workshop, “Cameras Don’t Take Pictures,” October 16–21.

“I love the workshop process and teaching gives me the opportunity to pass along the many ideas, approaches, and insights that I have received over the past 40 years,” Reid responded when asked what he likes about trading his director role for that of an instructor. “I enjoy the interaction with our participants over an extended period of time. That’s something I don’t get to do as much in my role as director of the workshops. But in San Miguel, as an instructor, I can spend a week, get to know the participants well, and share what I know about photography and learn from them as well. It’s a treat for me to take that time and truly be present in the process of teaching. I find it incredibly energizing and a true pleasure.”

Since that first visit more than 15 years ago, Reid has taught “Cameras Don’t Take Pictures “only a handful of times. In that time, he’s also watched San Miguel grow and gain popularity among tourists and expats, but he remains just as charmed by San Miguel as ever. He speaks with admiration saying, “The city has kept its unique qualities in spite of its popularity as a travel destination and has preserved the city’s colonial graciousness.”

That graciousness is also still present in the people and culture of San Miguel. “I extend my thanks to the people of San Miguel for welcoming us and being our hosts for more than 10 years,” said Reid. To display his gratitude, he encourages the community to join Santa Fe Workshops for the free lecture series at Centro Cultural “El Nigromante” at Bellas Artes, Monday nights, October 10–4. “It’s a small gift we offer to show our thanks to the community,” he says. “We’ve been welcomed by the community with open arms and we are grateful for that. In some ways, coming to San Miguel feels like coming home.”


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