oxford kitsch

Pulling together some pictures from Oxford, I was curious how I saw this place upon arrival: My first walks aimed for Oxford kitsch in college land — the thick walls, enchanted gardens, and dreaming spires. Grouping these pictures, some gaps showed up, and so I started to revisit and shoot these locations once more. Back then, I had tried to see Oxford in warm lights as a maze created for its own playfulness; so I tried again.

In any case, it is impossible to photograph these places without so many other pictures in mind: Photographed over and over again, sights such as the Bridge of Sighs or the Radcliffe Camera, have become a reproduced cliche. At least, I made an attempt to find perspectives that I could not remember from pictures I have seen before; probably, I failed utterly. While it is almost impossible to shoot any of these buildings with a fresh angle, obvious vantage points are besieged by queues of people in search for shots that have been handed down in continuous flickr streams: In that sense, we do not even see the place but only the picture we have thereof.

Living in central Oxford means living in a museum — which has its charm but also furthers a certain artifice: The all-dominant tradition must be preserved to uphold the great history of innovation and success, so to speak. The price for this continuity is visible all around, as the city reproduces itself in its own image. And even this reproduction has a tradition here, since all colleges come with the same principal organization, i.e., with chapel, library, dining hall, common rooms, and accommodation, next to quad and garden. This layout has remained the same over centuries, only changing its skin with the fashion of the time. Sure, these differences in interpreting the very same function are interesting — especially, if you look at the city as a museum.

Putting my little rant aside, when I came here, I could not resist taking these pictures. And in any case, photography is about the search for perspective, the moment of releasing the shutter, and the bliss of beauty imprinted during the little darkness while the mirror moves up to expose the sensor to the light!

The pictures below mix mostly banal perspectives with a few little insights — at least I hope so. If nothing else, these pictures give an idea why cohorts of tourists invade Oxford each year, just after the students leave for vacations.


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