Photographer shares first-hand evolution of documentary efforts


By John Cofield


Diabetes has no silver lining, but my recovery from its damage changed everything. Out of the blue, Oxford went from my beloved hometown to a hobby that swiftly turned into a job, and then a passion.

“Facebook changed my life” still sounds awfully corny to me, but it’s the truth and where the seeds for these books were planted.

So, there I was with less than my original right foot propped up for six weeks. One day I got a call from Glenn, “Hey, I’ve been told a student photographer of Dad’s from years back at PR has posted online a picture he took of Jack. I’m not about to start a Facebook page, you go do it and see what they are saying about Daddy.” And so it started. Within minutes of becoming a Facebooker, I realized people really liked the old black and whites of the town and county, and there I was with boxes, drawers, and cedar chests full of old photographs. 

So I got a scanner setup and learned how to use Facebook and took off. Soon the game changed when town friends began sending me their old family photos saying, “They’ll get more coverage on your page than anywhere else.” A collection began to grow and I am not overreaching here to go back to William Faulkner’s quote as it applies to Oxford’s pictorial history:

“I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.”

As the stories and photos began to pile up and the Facebook posts started becoming popular among friends and soon by many strangers to me. Ed Meek took me under his wing and into his latest successful enterprise at I began recounting Oxford history with pictures from many sources and then old Cofield family friend Kaye Bryant said, “There’s a book in you.”  

I began collecting everything I could on the most popular Facebook posts and before I knew it there was a huge stack of local memories. As people started asking for my mailing address and soon their grandma’s decades-old scrapbooks began to be delivered to my door, I knew I was a new keeper of Oxford’s past. 

But how to connect all this history in a book and move from one subject to another without big gaps and seams? Then I realized that many memories came from the days we rode around town on two wheels. So, I got on my spider bike and took off for the past.

I have been riding through old Oxford ever since.