Between 1968 to 1978, Paddy Summerfield photographed Oxford students in the summer terms. No older than his subjects, he shared their uncertainties: “I was young and unsure and found a way to show this.
I felt like an outsider, and lonely, that there was always something going on, parties and drinking, but elsewhere. Often, I sensed a loneliness in the students I photographed. We were all lonely together.”
Though he found his subjects beside the rivers and on sunlit college lawns, Summerfield’s images primarily express the insecurities and pain of youth. His psychological approach is driven by the tension between the yearning for love, and sexual anxiety. Solitary figures represent his own isolation, an experience that many will recognise. Rituals are played out, frivolity and romance give way to revision and exams, then celebrations that collapse into debauchery, and regret. The students depart and are replaced; only the stones remain.