The Oxford Project

One idea I have been saving for a rainy day, perhaps for a thesis project, is to photograph every person in a small town. And, as seems to happen with many ideas, someone has already beat me to it.

Peter Feldstein's The Oxford Project features photographs of most everyone in the small town of Oxford, Iowa. Oxford is just northwest of Iowa City and currently has around 700 residents. I've got a handful of family members buried in the town cemetery, none of which appear in this book.

Feldstein takes the idea one step further, photographing the town residents twice, once in 1984 and again in 2006. Along with the pairs of photographs, the residents were asked to describe how their life had changed in the twenty-two years since they were originally photographed.

The result is a fascinating book about the identity and growth of a small town. We see some of what has changed and what has stayed the same. Some residents talk proudly about the smallest details of their lives. Others confess to how the small town atmosphere has been suffocating. But most all seem proud to be Oxford residents, for better or worse. It's especially interesting to see how people have changed over the course of two decades and how many of the children have chosen to stay and make the town their home as adults.

A small sampling of The Oxford Project is available online at this website. The book is currently available from Welcome Books.