We were saddened to hear of the death, on December 1 2017, of Peter Feldstein, a photographer, who was a teacher and mentor to many over his long career, and a friend to Sarah Smelser and Jonathan Higgins of Manneken Press.
Peter taught for many years at the University of Iowa. He was best known for a photographic project he began in 1984, capturing the portraits and words of all of the inhabitants of Oxford, the small town where he lived outside of Iowa City. In 2004 he photographed the remaining people once again, juxtaposing their likenesses and reflections on their lives, twenty years removed. The Oxford Project became a traveling exhibition and a book with author Stephen Bloom, published by Welcome Books in 2008. As both a work of art and a document of rural life, it garnered a lot of attention, with many interviews and notices including The New York Times; and NPR.
Parallel to The Oxford Project was Peter’s “real” work; the pursuit of an abstract sensibility in photography. His interests included cliche´ verre, a hybrid of drawing and photography, for which he would create non-photographic negatives. Jonathan worked with Peter on a series of photogravure prints in 1998. The tiny hand-drawn negatives used as the source for the images rendered frenetic gestures and intriguing textures in the finished prints, which can be viewed here. His interests eventually turned toward exploration of the digital technology which was rapidly redefining the field of photography. As an artist Peter was fully engaged, and he left behind a huge and varied body of work. He was also a sweet and caring man who will be greatly missed.
Peter can be viewed in this YouTube video speaking about his “Iowa Portraits”, a major photographic commission at the University of Iowa.