"This spread is rich in content, and the photography works so well together. It depicts tranquility, place, nature, the Ohio autumn, and the Oberlin spirit. With fall being a "collegy" time of year, we thought this might trigger many memories across the generations. And the picture of the student and the graffiti evokes what we've felt about Oberlin. It captures the spirit of the people we came across over the past three years walking around Oberlin: students, recent graduates, or, when we were lucky enough to bump into them in town—Al McQueen or the Brittinghams. They all embody that."
The spread celebrates Martin Luther King and his esteem for Oberlin College. His heartspoken words resonate with so many. It feels like a mutual esteem, though.
We uncovered so many wonderful archival photographs of famous visitors to Oberlin that we could have filled hundreds of pages. People told us, 'you have to include so and so because he played here, or she spoke when I was here.' We believed this would lead to a ghastly comparison process and take the book into a new direction, which just didn't feel right. Anonymity of subjects in pictures felt much cleaner and closer to the authentic Oberlin. This was the rule we generally followed.
However at Alumni Council and a Washington, DC, preview event in the fall of 2011, the response to King and the young boy was immensely powerful — you could have heard a pin drop. There had to be exceptions to our own rule.
The iconic photograph of the dancing woman on Tappan we uncovered in the first archive sweep, and it immediately knocked us out ... It is simply a great, great piece of photography, and very Oberlin.
It was also a mystery. It was a print simply in a box of many photographs. The mystery was solved when the Oberlin Alumni Magazine reproduced the image. Stephen Pennington '66 identified himself as the artist and the image dates from the early 1960. The dancer is Sydney Zeiler '64. Sydney married another Obie, David Reed '65, whom identified himself to us at Alumni Council last fall. David was delighted this image of his beloved dancer had come to light again.
She looks so free, young, joyous, and completely confident in her moment, in the morning mist. It resonated so much, and was precisely the spirit we were seeking to capture in our work.
We wanted to show Oberlin at play: the coming-of-age experiences, having fun, and being in the process of becoming. Specifically the humor and small details and hints as to the many Oberlin cultures: the clothes, the tattoos, making music and love.
The pool table photograph is like a modern day Rockwell painting. The positioning of the players, the lighting, the cup. It could have been a Post cover back in the day. The photograph is timeless; its coloring is mellow, earthy, and warm. This warmth is palpable between the students, which is the key to the photograph.
I love the unintentional details, the man in the background with the T-shirt celebrating Judaism And the yellow gum boots.
This is a beautiful, classic composition—very informal and forward for the era, and dripping in the spirit of youth. When we found this photograph in the archives, it really made us smile, and we felt we had to include it in the book. You just know that if Tappan Square flooded tomorrow, six students would be out there, quite naturally, taking the same photograph. The only difference is that it would be taken on an iPhone and up on Facebook within the hour.
We made this book hoping that readers would connect with it viscerally, and we felt this image would do that. Our hope was realized when we turned this photo into a poster and put it up around campus during Commencement/Reunion weekend and so many folks asked for a copy of it. People just loved the quirkiness of it and the way it captures the Oberlin spirit so well.
Find out more about Oberlin, the book, by visiting www.oberlinbook.com. To find out more about Oberlin College, always read your alumni magazine.