The Oxford Project

The Oxford Project

4.0 13
by Stephen G. Bloom

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The Alex-award winning The Oxford Project is back in an abridged paperback edition. Less expensive, more portable, and retaining all the drama of this extraordinary true tale of a seemingly ordinary Midwestern town through the pictures and words its residents. Equal parts art, American histroy, cultural anthropology, and human narrative - The Oxford Project<


The Alex-award winning The Oxford Project is back in an abridged paperback edition. Less expensive, more portable, and retaining all the drama of this extraordinary true tale of a seemingly ordinary Midwestern town through the pictures and words its residents. Equal parts art, American histroy, cultural anthropology, and human narrative - The Oxford Project is at once personal and universal, surprising and predictable, simple and profound.

The Project began in 1984, when photographer Peter Feldstein set out to photograph every single resident of his town, Oxford, IA (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 his 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. What emerges is a living composite of a quintessential Midwestern community, told through the words and images of its residents - then and now. This intricate web of human connections among neighbors, friends, and family is the mainstay of small-town American life - unforgettably captured here in Feldstein's candid black-and-white photography and Bloom's rhythmic storytelling.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In this cleverly designed and artfully illustrated publication, artist Feldstein and Bloom (journalism & mass communication, Univ. of Iowa; Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America) document inhabitants of the small town of Oxford, IA, with more than 300 black-and-white photographic portraits and first-person narratives. Feldstein, who was living in Oxford in 1984, offered to photograph for free all the town's residents; 20 years later, he photographed as many of his previous subjects as he could locate, and Bloom interviewed 100 of the residents. Masterfully and collaboratively conceived, this book consists of demographic, historical, and visual data about Oxford and snapshots of the town's inhabitants in 1984 juxtaposed to those taken in present times, many of which are offset by their stories. Of significance to humanities scholars and social scientists as well as to general readers who may relate to its subjects, this work provides a good glimpse of small-town America but is unlikely to be the most authoritative vision. Accompanying a traveling exhibition to China and Italy, this publication is strongly recommended for many undergraduate academic, large public, and local library collections, particularly those encompassing documentary photography and narrative journalism.
—Cheryl Ann Lajos

From the Publisher
"For my Creative Writing students the portraits in The Oxford Project really are worth a thousand words. When used as writing prompts, the transformative nature of the portraits help my students practice crafting characters.  The portraits have also inspired my students to bring in portraits of themselves as children which they use to spark pieces of writing that explore connections between the yesterday of their childhood and the today of their teen years.  This year students will use the Oxford Project as a template to create their own Oxford Project that focuses on the childhood portrait of a relative or neighbor they know who is from an older generation."
--Junius Wright, Academic Magnet High School     

"I opened the book for a quick browse and read it from cover to cover before I realized it was nearly three in the morning on a school night, but a more temperate reader would likely enjoy flipping through a section or even opening it to a random page. Photo majors, and anyone else interested in the human condition, should not miss The Oxford Project."
--DCAD Delaware College of Art & Design

"What we have in this spellbinding and ambitious and eccentric volume is 'Our Town' and 'Spoon River Anthology' updated and revivified. We also have journalism, in words and in images, at its heart-stopping best and its most the final page you feel as if you have both read a novel and seen a movie simultaneously."
--Nieman Reports

"Then-and-now portraits, shown side-by-side, tell one powerful story; in accompanying texts, their beautiful testimonials to time and life and people tell another.", Best Gift Books 2008

"Each picture is worth a thousand words, and each pair of portraits is a fair trade for an entire novel."
--NPR, Morning Edition

"The product is a hard-to-put-down coffee-table book, with big, striking then-and-now portraits, that pulls you deep into small-town America, with its almost excessive joys. The danger of such a project is that it can make caricatures out of real people - but this book stays true to its life-worn subjects and to the complexities of what would seem to be the most simple of places."
--The Atlantic

"People don't get much more real than this, and there's a heartbreaking, forensic pleasure in paging through the book to stare at the pictures for minutes at a time, looking at the thousands of ways in which the years change each of us."
--The Washington Post

"The book is at once strikingly intimate and expansive...[The Oxford Project has] the sweeping scope and power of Our Town or Spoon River Anthology. It's both personal and historical, which makes Feldstein's achievement doubly absorbing and doubly affecting."
--The Austin Chronicle

"The Oxford Project is an homage to Americana, a photographic record of small-town America and the story of intertwined lives. It is about history, personal and collective, and that ubiquitous force: change. This book, like the facets of human features, is so intriguing, it is nearly impossible to put down."

--The San Antonio Current

"There's something truly remarkable about this book. Art and historical artifact, The Oxford Project provides a glimpse into a real America - not the one dreamed up, and exploited, by pandering politicians (at every point on the political spectrum). This is the real thing, riveting and revelatory.

...The Oxford Project is like a still-life documentary, a narrative about change. This huge, handsome book, with its gatefold photographs, its maps and memories, offers a fascinating piece of contemporary history, a treasure of social and cultural commentary."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Honest, gripping, and incredibly moving...The book design is brilliantly conceived and beautifully produced."
--Black and White magazine

"Fascinating...a time capsule that offers the reader a unique glimpse of the changing face of life in small town America...a fine addition to your personal library."
--Shutterbug magazine

"What a marvelous way to get at 'who we are' as people. This powerful, confessional book draws its strength from the truth that so-called ordinary people, not those with bold-faced names, are actually the heroes of our American drama."
--Ken Burns, Emmy award-winning director of The Civil War

"Cleverly designed and artfully illustrated. Of significance to humanities scholars and socials scientists, as well as general readers, this work provides a good glimpse of small town America."
--Library Journal

"[The] images are a fascinating look at how people age and develop, a kind of real life 'before' and 'after' intriguing look at small town America."

"These photographs and stories are American documentary work at its finest."
--Dale Maharidge, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

"The Oxford Project is an extraordinary undertaking and a fascinating book. These magnificent photos and oral histories make for a can't-put-it-down-read, and prove that the stories we find all around us are the most interesting and important of all. You'll be awed by the poetry in the words, dreams, and faces of Oxford, Iowa.
--Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps

"A coffee table book that will lead to many discussions. The Oxford Project is also a book to read cover to cover. It is a record of humanity during the last years of the 20th century. Everyone will find something of themselves in the people of Oxford."
--Nancy Quinn, Marketing Director, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Milwaukee

"The arresting lenticular photograph on the cover of this book is a boy, Hunter Tandy in 1984, and as a man in 2005. The diversity of human experiences is engrossing and the photos are captivating. This is an American small town's story but also the story of American lives. Humane, poignant, but also a work of art, The Oxford Project deserves to be in every library and home to remind us of who our neighbors are."
--Catherine Wallberg. Buyer, Harry W. Scwhartz Bookshops, Milwaukee

"To stumble upon a small town like Oxford is one thing - to be able to consider its whole population face by face, at your own leisure, is something else entirely."
--from the Preface, by Gerald Stern

"This book was amazing. Amazing. Many things about people are immutable - often residents would stand the same way for their portraits 20 years apart without noticing it. So much of who we are is shaped by how others see us, but clearly at our core we are all our own person."

"The whole endeavor in question is both simple and simply amazing...taken slowly and allowed to unfold (much like the project itself), The Oxford Project had much to reveal and does so beautifully."

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 10.60(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Feldstein is an artist working at the intersection of photography, drawing, printmaking, and digital imaging. Feldstein's work has been shown in galleries across the country, at eh Des Moines Art Center and has been included in group exhibition 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 (Harvest Books). He is also the author of a collection of non-fiction stories, Inside the Writer's Mind (Wiley-Blackwell), and Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls (St. Martin's Press). Since 1993, Bloom has taught at the University of Iowa, where he specializes in narrative writing.

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The Oxford Project 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
docsarvis More than 1 year ago
I first this book months ago, and was impressed by the quality of the photos.
As an amateur photographer and someone who is interested in story telling it is great to look through and read about all these personal histories.
To see how people have matured and dealt with life's struggle should be inspirational to everyone.
Living in Los Angeles can definitely blind you to the outside world, and this book really opens up your eyes.
I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.
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