A year ago, on the centenary of his departure to the great darkroom in the sky, we published a Story in honour of Henry Taunt (1842-1922). Author of richly illustrated guidebooks and publisher of countless picture postcards, he was, without doubt, our city’s most prolific photographer.

He also happens to have sported of one of Oxford’s finest ever beards.

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The hairstyles and clothes may have changed in the intervening decades; the traffic and shop signs too. But most of the buildings portrayed in his guidebooks are still reassuringly recognisable. Oxford today remains as photogenic as it was in Taunt’s time, its antique architecture, mellow stone and generous light forming the perfect backdrop for a seemingly timeless visual narrative.

We thought it would be interesting to mark the 101st anniversary of HT’s passing by shifting focus and bringing our zoom lens right up to the present day. So we invited ten of Oxford‘s many outstanding contemporary photographers to submit an image or two of their choice.

Here are the pictures they generously provided:

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Chris Andrews is in many ways Taunt’s direct descendent. His calendars, postcards, books, and vibrant, crystal clear prints adorn every Oxford souvenir shop.

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Adrian Arbib is the photographer sans pareil of Port Meadow, with an uncanny ability to capture its subtle light-changes and shifting moods.

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Rory Carnegie works with some of our city’s most deprived people. He invited a team of homeless Oxfordians to help him recreate a set of strikingly iconic images.

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Nicola Devine was regarded by her many admirers as Oxford’s most patient photographer. Her meticulous dedication resulted in a series of stunning photographs of The Trap Grounds. These images were submitted on her behalf. **

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Stephen Foote began his intrepid career as a diver on the Mary Rose project, and now films in some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots – including Gaza. We managed to capture him during the first lockdown.

Kazem Hakimi

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Kazem Hakimi is a legendary presence on the Iffley Road, the white wall behind his chip shop providing the backdrop for some unforgettable portrait photography.

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Fran Monks, in the words of her website, ‘celebrates the under-celebrated’. She also celebrates those who dare to plunge into the waters of Oxford – hence these bracing images.

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Bharet Patel has taken a compelling series of images of people waiting at the coach stop outside The Queen’s College. Whatever did we all do in the days before the mobile phone?

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Martin Stott describes himself as a ‘socially engaged documentary photographer’. He has recently made it his mission to photograph all 120 households of the street where he’s lived for more than thirty years.

And finally …

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Nothing captures better the glorious alchemy of patience, skill, vision, and timing than this offering by the street photographer Andrew Turner. He says he had been noticing the subject of his photograph in various locations in Oxford for at least three years before securing the spectacular image below.

‘I was fascinated by this chap. He was mostly seen on his scooter up and down the Woodstock Road. Somehow I was always either too far away or without a camera every time he passed by.

‘Then, totally unexpectedly, one day while I was sat in traffic on Hythe Bridge Street I spotted him in the distance coming towards me. Miraculously I had my camera on the passenger seat of the car. There was no time to set up the camera or frame the shot properly. I just pointed the camera and perhaps had a second or two while I waited and guessed when he might come into frame. I took only this one single shot.’

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** This Story is dedicated to Nicola Devine who passed away last year at the age of 51.

With admiring thanks to all the featured photographers:

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Catherine Robinson, Secretary of The Friends of the Trap Grounds, writes:

IN MEMORIAM: NICOLA DEVINE

Nicola Devine was an entirely self-taught photographer, with no specialist knowledge of wildlife, when she began exploring the Trap Grounds nature reserve in north Oxford in 2015. By the time of her death at the age of 51 in 2022, she had built up an incredible archive of intimate studies of the birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates of this urban site. On her daily visits she would spend hours just standing, watching, and waiting to see what would turn up. She saw small things that nobody else would have noticed. She became part of the landscape of the Trap Grounds, so that the birds and the four-footed residents accepted her presence and even seemed to present their best profiles to her camera. Then she would go home and spend hours on her PC, learning about the creatures that she had photographed. In particular she became an authority on the Trap Grounds’ dragons and damsels: of the 33 known species of odonata in Oxfordshire, Nicola identified and photographed 22. Having left school at the age of 16, with no academic qualifications, she was modest in the extreme about her expertise, but, if required, she would discuss her observations with the leading county wildlife experts.

My favourites from her photographic archive include her glimpses of the elusive Water Rail (our rarest bird) skulking in the reedbed … a wily Weasel lurking in the woodland … ten newly fledged Long-tailed Tits lining up for lunch on a willow branch … a Great Spotted Woodpecker tempting his chicks to leave the nest … and a Wood Mouse crouched just by her foot, sniffing wild marjoram in the meadow. It was a privilege to see the wildlife through the lens of Nicola’s camera. She illuminated our lives with her wonderful photos, and she has left a priceless legacy. A small selection of her work can be seen on the Trap Grounds website: https://trap-grounds.org.uk/nicola-devine-photo-gallery/.

After her death, the Friends of the Trap Grounds installed a bench in her memory (see photograph) in her favourite spot by the Dragonfly Pond. We think she would have approved of the fact that it is made of recycled plastic (c. 37,000 bottle tops!): an appropriate installation for a former rubbish dump. And we have established the annual Nicola Devine Photography Competition, with Under-18 and Over-18 categories, with the aim of encouraging new talent. The names of the winners of the 2023 competition can be found at https://trap-grounds.org.uk/the-nicola-devine-photography-competition-2023/. Their images, and those of the runners-up, have been used to illustrate our 2024 calendar.

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