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Recapturing a Town and Its People

Peter Feldstein set out in 1984 to photograph his neighbors in Oxford, Iowa. More than two decades later, he re-photographed many of his original subjects.

It started on a lark, says Peter Feldstein, who set out in 1984 to photograph his neighbors in Oxford, Iowa. After he “twisted arms and cajoled people to do it,” Feldstein made 670 black-and-white portraits, displayed them in an American Legion hall and stashed the negatives in boxes.

More than two decades later, working with writer Stephen G. Bloom, Feldstein, now 66, re-photographed many of his original subjects and interviewed them about their lives. The result, The Oxford Project (Welcome Books), is a candid look at growing up and growing older in small-town America.

Feldstein chose not to pose his subjects. “I wanted to provide a stage for them to act themselves out,” he says. He also marveled at their frankness—about their dreams and disappointments. “They opened up to us in ways that were totally unexpected.”