The Oxford Project by Stephen G. Bloom

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews



In 1984, photographer Peter Feldstein set out to photograph every single resident of his town, Oxford, Iowa (pop. 676). He converted an abandoned storefront on Main Street into a makeshift studio and posted fliers inviting people to stop by. At first they trickled in slowly, but in the end, nearly all of Oxford stood before Feldstein's lens. Twenty years later, Feldstein decided to do it again. Only this time he invited writer Stephen G. Bloom to join him, and together they went in search of the same Oxford residents Feldstein had originally shot two decades earlier. Some had moved. Most had stayed. Others had passed away. All were marked by the passage of time.

In a place like Oxford, not only does everyone know everyone else, but also everyone else's brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, lovers, secrets, failures, dreams, and favorite pot luck recipes. This intricate web of human connections between neighbors friends, and family, is the mainstay of small town American life, a disappearing culture that is unforgettably captured in Feldstein's candid black-and-white portraiture and Bloom's astonishing rural storytelling.

Meet the town auctioneer who fell in love with his wife in high school while ice-skating together on local ponds; his wife who recalls the dress she wore as his prom date over fifty years ago; a retired buck skinner who started a gospel church and awaits the rapture in 2028; the donut baker at the Depot who went from having to be weighed on a livestock scale to losing over 150 pounds with the support of all of Oxford; a twenty-one-year-old man photographed in 1984 as an infant in his father's arms, who has now survived both of his parents due to tragedy and illness.

Considered side-by-side, the portraits reveal the inevitable transformations of aging: wider waistlines, wrinkled skin, eyeglasses, and bowed backs. Babies and children have instantly sprouted into young nurses, truck drivers, teachers, and rodeo riders, become Buddhists, racists, democrats, and drug addicts. The courses of lives have been irrevocably altered by deaths, births, marriages, and divorces. Some have lost God--others have found Him. But there are also those for whom it appears time has almost stood still. Kevin Somerville looks eerily identical in his 1984 and 2004 portraits, right down to his worn overalls, shaggy mane, and pale sunglasses. Only the graying of his lumberjack beard gives away the years that have passed.

Face after face, story after story, what quietly emerges is a living composite of a quintessential Midwestern community, told through the words and images of its residents--then and now. In a town where newcomers are recognized by the sound of an
unfamiliar engine idle, The Oxford Project invites you to discover the unexpected details, the heartbreak, and the reality of lives lived on the fringe of our urban culture.

About Stephen G. Bloom

See more books from this Author
Peter Feldstein is an artist working at the intersection of photography, drawing, printmaking, and digital imaging. He has shown at Just Above Midtown Gallery, Vibeke Levy Gallery, and Exposure Gallery (NYC), Roy Boyd Gallery (Chicago), Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art (Kansas City), and Olson-Larson Galleries (Des Moines). Feldstein's work has been included in group exhibits at the Center for Creative Photography, Walker Art Center, and the Rhode Island School of Design. He has received an NEA Individual Artist's Grant and two Polaroid Collection Grants. For more than three decades, Feldstein taught photography and digital imaging at the University of Iowa School of Art & Art History.Stephen G. Bloom is the author of Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America (Harcourt, 2000). He also is the author of a collection of nonfiction stories, Inside the Writer's Mind (2002). Bloom has worked as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Sacramento Bee, and San Jose Mercury News. His book, Tears of Mermaids: A Secret History, will be published by St. Martin's Press in September 2009. Since 1993, Bloom has taught at the University of Iowa, where he specializes in narrative writing.
Published September 28, 2010 by Welcome Books. 256 pages
Genres: Arts & Photography, Travel, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Oxford Project

Mail Online

Captivating: Peter Feldstein's The Oxford Project presents a series of two-part works that show individuals photographed 21 years ago and then photographed today.

Jul 26 2012 | Read Full Review of The Oxford Project

A Patchwork of Books

And, yeah, yeah, tons of people in my crowd will gladly read YA books as much as they enjoy reading books for adults, but I know damn well that there are people who would rather have root canal work done, than sit and read a book classified as YA.

Feb 29 2016 | Read Full Review of The Oxford Project

Reader Rating for The Oxford Project

An aggregated and normalized score based on 39 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review