PHOTOGRAPHY has been rooted in Oxford’s history ever since pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot took his famous photographs here during the 1840s.

And now Summertown photographer Robin Laurance wants to use a three-week festival to put the city’s snappers back on the world stage.

For the first time, the city will play host to an international photography festival, Photography Oxford.

It is set to run from September 14 and will be opened by digital industries minister and MP for Didcot and Wantage Ed Vaisey.

The Oxford Mail’s sister paper The Oxford Times is the official media partner of the event, which will bring some 30 leading photographers from around the globe to the city.

And the Oxford Mail today opens a readers’ photo competition, with a chance for the winners to have their work exhibited alongside some of the world’s most famous photographers.

The festival is also set to host a series of renowned speakers, including former ministers involved in the Northern Ireland peace process.

But Mr Laurance said as well as celebrating the arts, the festival will also focus on the issues surrounding photography in modern society. He said: “Oxford is the ideal place for this event. It is walkable, beautiful and I can think of no better place to start a debate around the issues that face photography in the 21st century.

“It is an area of art that still gets treated like the poor cousin of the visual arts. Painting, sculptures and installation art pieces are respected at a level it has not yet reached. I want to change that and raise awareness about it.

“It also seems these days that people treat pictures of experiences as being more important than the experience itself, and you get these appalling situations at weddings where it is all just one big photo opportunity. These things need some very serious thought. At this festival we want to open peoples’ minds as well as their eyes to photography.”

Mr Laurance is a photojournalist who has worked for The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The New York Times and the Washington Post. During his career he has taken portrait pictures of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and artist Francis Bacon.

Photography Oxford, he said, will see photographers come to Oxford from around the world, to exhibit work in some 20 venues across the city, including the Bodleian Library, the Story Museum, the North Wall Arts Centre, Modern Art Oxford and the O3 Gallery.

Entry to exhibitions will be free and the festival has also won the support of Arts Council England.

Activities on offer will include an “American-style” drive-in cinema in East Oxford, as well as a series of documentaries.

In a series of talks around how photojournalism can affect political issues, the first ever first minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimple, as well as former Northern Ireland permanent secretary Sir Jonathan Phillips, will also both make guest appearances, alongside journalist Philip Jacobson, of The Sunday Times.

Shaving Jen's head


"Jen was admitted to the hospital at the end of April, her hip was swelling and she was in tremendous pain as a result of side effects from radiation treatment.

Some of our family and friends were visiting us in Jen's hospital room.

Everyone was talking, all around us, then Jen ran her fingers through her hair and held her hands out to me.

I said: “Want me to bring the clippers tomorrow?”

I remember patches of hair falling out before the clippers even hit them. I finished shaving Jen’s hair in the bathroom of her hospital room, it was just another part of our life...Jen looked so beautiful."

  • Angelo’s photo will be part of the Photography and Healing exhibition at North Wall Arts Centre, Summertown

Celebrating a rich vein of talent


Photography Oxford will see internationally-recognised artists exhibit around the city, including many of Oxfordshire’s own. Just a few who will be on show include: s Rory Carnegie, of Oxford, at the Sarah Wiseman Gallery in Summertown. There’ll be a selection of Rory’s award–winning “Port Meadow Dogs” series which document dogs like Nora, pictured right, that walk on the meadow each day.

Global flair


  • “Brothers” is inspired by the world of children’s medicine and New Yorker photographer Wendy Sack’s past as a peadiatrician. She uses water as the medium for all her pictures in the series “Immersed in Living Water”, which has received international acclaim. Her work can be seen at the Photography and Healing show at the North Wall Arts Centre for the festival duration

Photographers expected to attend Photography Oxford will come from the United States, Germany, New Zealand, France, Finland, Egypt, Italy and the UK.

And the renowned World Press Photo exhibition will also have its 2014 UK debut at the festival, as part of a global tour. The display will be on show in Oxford Brookes University’s Glass Tank, at the Headington Campus in Gipsy Lane. The contest has for 55 years promoted photojournalism and the winning photographs are toured around the world for a year, attracting millions of visitors. It is judged by experts in photography.


  • New Zealander Robin Hammond took this picture of a young boy and a young man sitting in one of the thousands of dwellings destroyed or wrecked in Operation ‘Murambatsvina’ or ‘Drive Out Rubbish’, a campaign which started in 2005 by the Zimbabwean government to forcibly clear slum areas around the country. Robin’s work can be seen at Magdalen College for the duration of the the festival

In 2013 American photographer John Stanmeyer, of National Geographic, won the contemporary issues category for his picture of African migrants on the shore of Djibouti City, Djibouti.

Djibouti is a well-travelled crossroads for many migrants coming from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe or the Middle East.


To celebrate Photography Oxford, the Oxford Mail is launching a competition where your talents can truly shine.

We’re running the contest, which has the theme ‘Home’ in partnership with the festival and Oxford Brookes University.

You can take a photo of whatever inspires you and means ‘Home’ to you.

The best photos will appear in the paper over the coming weeks and will also be part of the festival exhibition.

A judging panel, which will include our Picture Editor Leah McLaren, will choose the winner. The best photographer will receive a glass trophy and a chance to go out with one of our professional photographers for a day of news shooting. There will also be certificates for two runners-up.

HOW TO ENTER: Pictures should be sent to and submissions can be viewed at @N07 or on the Twitter account @Homeproject14.

The deadline for submissions is August 25. Entrants must supply their name, age, address, postcode and contact number, with a brief description of their photo – including why they took it. There is no age limit, but a maximum of two images may be submitted by one person.

  • Terms and Conditions: Newsquest Oxfordshire, Photography Oxford Festival and Oxford Brookes University may use any photograph/image for publicity. By entering into the competition, winners must be a resident of Oxfordshire and agree to publicity involving an interview and a picture of themselves with their work. A selection of submitted images will be displayed in a public exhibition with entrants’ names at Oxford Brookes between September 14 and October 5. This will form part of the ‘Home’ exhibition organised by staff and students at the University for Photography Oxford.