#136 The Oxford Project

If you haven’t already heard of this book, you are now.  Basically this amazing photographer took a picture of almost everyone in his 700ish people town.  (He lives in Oxford, Iowa.)  And then 25 years later, he did it again.  Only this time he also listened to their stories.

I’ve had this thing on the hold list at my library for months.  Finally Husband brought it home yesterday.  And I spent an hour last night reading and looking at the whole thing.  It’s amazing.  Such a simple concept.  From a simple little town.  Filled with simple people.  But nothing is ever really simple.  Especially life.

I smiled and laughed and sighed and cried.  And wanted to meet many of these people in person.

Overall, the people in those pages are happy.  And that’s refreshing.  It’s shocking how similar their photos look from the old ones.  25 years later many of them are still wearing the same type of clothes, the same expressions, the same stances.  It’s really remarkable how little we change as a person.  And how much we feel like we do.

There were several themes that kept recurring in the lives and pages of all these neighbors –

  • war – How many lives are affected by a tour of duty?  It’s mind-boggling and humbling.
  • weight – For so many people it seems like weight is such a big part of their lives.  And sucks away at so much of themselves.
  • faith – The town has a little variety.  But whatever the faith, it seems like these people are rooted in it.  That was beautiful to read.

One of my favorite quotes in the book is on page 86 by Pauline McAreavy.

By the time I was thirty-six, I had finished production.  I produced from 1957-1969.  I have 6 children.

Here’s another great one from Alan Reynolds:

I was a DJ at my wife’s first wedding.

And from John Honn:

I’ve seen devils, demons, and angels.  I once had a demon come to my bedroom.  He was tall, almost touching the ceiling, and cold – like a cold-blooded animal.  He was dark and drapey, like Darth Vader without the helmet.  I rassled with him on the bed.

So go check out the book yourself.  You can pay the $50 to buy it.  Or you can be cheap like me and just borrow it.  Either way, you should give it a glance.  And Lynette Scheetz gives you a good reason to do so on page 214:

You gain wisdom from seeing the ups and downs of the same people every day.

(And if you get the book, tell me that Vince Grabin on page 181 isn’t the most handsome 80 year old man you’ve ever seen in your life.  Or is it just me?)

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3 responses to “#136 The Oxford Project

  1. Peter Feldstein

    Thanks for your kind words, but this book was a collaboration. Though I took part in the interviews, the interviewer and writer of the stories is Stephen G. Bloom. Thanks.

  2. I should have made that more clear – Sorry! Either way, both the photographs and stories were amazing. What a neat project!

  3. Peter Feldstein

    Thanks.

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