I originally thought I would feature The Oxford Project in my regular Over the Counter post on Thursdays. But as I started glancing through it, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop, so I signed it out and took it home. And I was right - I sat and read it in one sitting.
What is The Oxford Project? Photographer Peter Feldstein moved to tiny Oxford, Iowa in 1965. In 1984, he had the idea to photograph every person living in Oxford. (population 693) And twenty years later he photographed them again. (population 705) Writer Stephen G. Bloom interviewed about 100 of the townsfolk and their stories are included with their 'then' and 'now' shots.
The photographs are raw and untouched as are the stories told. Honest and real. I felt privileged to be let into someones life in such an intimate fashion. The collection of photos and stories paints a vivid picture of a town and the people living within its boundaries. Just everyday people getting on with life.
I think that Bloom says it very well: " Despite its withered exterior, Oxford, and the countless towns like it across the United States, continue to hold fiercely to their roots. They remain, in many ways, like large protective families, insulated and untouched by the energy and vulgarity of urban America. Peter's portraits of the residents of Oxford and their own deeply felt words combine to create a national portrait of over-looked triumphs and travails. In the faces and voices of these strangers, we grow to understand ourselves better. They remind us of who we dreamed we would become, and who we turned out to be."
I found myself thinking of the residents of Oxford long after I turned the last page. Just a fantastic idea and book. Loved it.