Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Paddy Summerfield – The Oxford Pictures 1968-1978

It may have taken too long in coming but now there is a book of images by Paddy Summerfield from his early Oxford period. You may not know Paddy but he has been part of the photographic firmament of Oxford for ever. I first met him on June 6th 1982. I had just opened the doors of my new business, The Photographers Workshop, and in strode Paddy. I had heard tell of this mythic man and when he said who he was and could he help I thought this is it, I am on the road. Paddy and I have been friends now for more than 30 years and I cherish that time. I remember the first time I saw his Oxford pictures appearing under the red lights of the darkroom and wondering how this man before me could have taken such brilliant photographs. Prior to seeing his work I had only seen similar in books by people who were really famous, and this man was in my darkrooms.

He shared his passion and knowledge with anyone who would benefit; teaching, mentoring and helping and never for reward, he didn’t want money he just wanted to be involved with interesting images and people.

So to his book, a beautiful edition with many of the pictures from a period when Oxford was still the Oxford of memory. What has amazed me about the book is how close the reproductions are to the prints he would work on in the dark, they have a quality, an intensity that I don’t see from digital work. This is a wondrous thing to behold, I would recommend you find a copy and spend time indulging your love of photography. Do not expect warm, honey coloured stones, this Oxford is much darker and more interesting.

Go to Paddy’s website to find more information http://paddysummerfield.com/

cover-oxford

Paddy Summerfield 1

Paddy Summerfield 2

 

The New York Times no less reviewed this book, go here to see 16 images on their gallery

Sprawled on grass, floating down a river, or gazing blankly into the distance — all the subjects captured, unawares, in the photographer Paddy Summerfield’s new book “The Oxford Pictures” share a certain listlessness. In 1968, having been “thrown out” of Guildford School of Art (“the staff weren’t particularly sympathetic towards my vision”), Summerfield returned to his hometown of Oxford, England. He spent the summers of the next 10 years wandering around the grounds of the elite Oxford University, where he photographed students at leisure.

What he sensed at the university, he says, was an atmosphere that mirrored how he felt about his own life. “I was young,” he says, “It’s a young person’s vision, noticing girls and noticing other people’s relationships — but I was always outside everything.” He recognised a similar nervousness in the subjects of his photos, who hovered between the social rituals of university and an existential uncertainty. At the time, Summerfield was heavily influenced by John Lennon — and there is something personal and deeply melancholy about these images. “I set out to show heartache and disappointment,” he says. “It’s about feeling… well, I suppose, isolated and lonely, and full of sexual anxiety.

A selection of Summerfield’s pictures was shown at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford in 1976. But this month, 40 years later, they become the subject of a new book. Summerfield says that the fashionable British documentary photographers of the time — Don McCullin, David Hurn, Ian Berry, Tony Ray Jones — were more preoccupied with society than with introspection. “They were interested in the world around them,” he says. “I’m interested in the interior world.”

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