Oxford International Links

The Future Is Now 14, Leiden © Eelkje Colmjon

Oxford has 8 twin cities which allow us to engage with other cultures and ways of life. They also bring benefit to cities through knowledge-sharing activities, where people can learn from how problems are tackled in other countries, exchange ideas and understand different viewpoints. The Oxford International Links exhibition for Photo Oxford 2020 captures, through photography by and of women, many of the elements of these unique cultural collaborations.

2020 coincides with the centenary of the first women graduating from the University of Oxford. The theme for this year’s Photo Oxford Festival is Women and Photography: Ways of Seeing and Being Seen. The festival includes indoor and outdoor exhibitions and installations and projections, online discussion, films and workshops.

Photo Oxford has collaborated with Oxford City Council and the Oxford International Links group on the display in the Covered Market and on reaching out to the 8 twin cities.

Bonn, Germany

In 1947, Oxford and Bonn formed one of the first Anglo-German twinning links in the UK. We will celebrate 75 years of this longstanding friendship in 2022.

At the heart of twinning is the hospitality extended by the hosts to the visitors; the Bonn-Oxford link is no exception, with the sharing of food, of culture and environment. These photographs from Bonn offer an informal documentation of such visits showing both the generality of the types of experience as well as the particularities created by the individuality of place.


Voirrey Carr is Chair of the Oxford Bonn Link and Secretary to Oxford International Links which supports friendships and partnerships with all our twin cities.

Robin Carr is a member of the Bonn Link and contributor to Farmoor Photography Group.

Eva Wal and Oli Kerth are leaders of the Dada War Alles Gut creative group in Bonn.

Grenoble, France

The city of Grenoble is situated on the banks of the Isère river (spanned at one point by Le Pont d’Oxford) and towered over by the Alps. The scenic beauty of the city is complemented by an ancient university and a hi-tech science centre and is home to every kind of cultural institution and event. 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the twinning of Oxford and Grenoble and there have been many and varied cultural exchanges between the cities over the years.

The photographs shown here provide a glimpse of the cultural richness of Grenoble and also document a recent exchange. In the first series, the photographer Auriane Poillet has captured moments from the street, from theatre, cinema, and music venues around the city. Auriane works as a photographer and journalist with the communications office of Grenoble City Council.

The second series is the result of an innovative collaboration of primary school pupils from Grenoble and Oxford in 2018. The inspiration for the Oxford-Grenoble Association and Oxford International Links twinning project, which aimed to encourage the love of photography and twinning, came from Marie-Christine Simiand in Grenoble and Mel Houldershaw in Oxford. In Oxford, Cathy Lewis acted as project manager (liaising with 11 schools), curator, photographer, and workshop leader with Hugh Warwick. Artist Aurore de Sousa led the workshops and acted as a mentor in Grenoble. As well as establishing new twinning links in schools that had not done this type of project before, the children produced some breath-taking, high-quality photographs, with a gratifyingly high participation rate.

Perm, Russia

Perm is the most easterly city in Europe, situated nine hundred miles east of Moscow, between the Kama River and the Ural Mountains. With an Opera and Ballet Theatre dating from 1870, an important art collection. and the State University founded at the beginning of the 20th century, Perm is a cultural and educational centre for the region.

Perm has been linked to Oxford since 1990 and was officially twinned in 1995.

The photographs exhibited here represent two very different aspects of the region. On the one hand, there is the traditional life of the rural villages in the countryside surrounding the city; and then there is the city itself with its vibrant modernity, its industry, universities, and many cultural institutions. The contrasts between the two could not be greater.

The Photographers

Valery Amotnik was born in Murmansk in 1939. His interest in photography dates back to his childhood when the elder brother of a friend introduced him to the possibilities of the medium. It was, however, not until he was about 30 that Valery began to take photographs himself. At the end of the 1970s, he was given a camera so that he could take pictures of his children. Shortly after, he took a portrait that surprised and delighted him - ‘If an ordinary photograph suddenly begins to emotionally affect you and others, if it causes a shiver inside, this is Art’ – and he never looked back.

Valery has taken part in 35 international exhibitions: in Spain, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Russia, Georgia, UK, and France.

Andrey Krotov, 58 years old, is a retired military man. He has been taking photographs for over 40 years. Andrey is a member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia and a photographer with FIAP (Fédération Internationale de l' Art Photographique). He is Chairman of the Perm Regional Branch of the Union of Wildlife Photographers and often travels around the Perm Region to photograph the life of villagers in the ‘hinterland’.

Gherman Ánton (Stolbov), born in 1962, is a member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia and the People's Photo Club in Perm. His main areas of interest are landscape, reportage, genre photography and mobile phone photography.

Gherman says, ‘Photography is my hobby, my favorite activity for the soul. There is beauty, harmony and an interesting story in everything. My goal in a photographer is to see this beauty and to convey it to my audience. In my work I explore the unusual sides of simple things and to express my vision of the world around us.’

Darya Permyakova, 29 years old, was born and raised in the city of Perm. She is a journalist and has been engaged in photography for three years. Through her work, she seeks to capture the moment in ways that will arouse a strong emotional response in the viewer. She sees this exhibition as an opportunity to show her hometown, her world, her country to demonstrate the humanity it shares with the rest of the world – a world not ideal, but beautiful in its own way. Photography becomes a way to tell stories about people, about a whole city, its culture, and traditions.

León, Nicaragua

The old capital of Nicaragua, León is a city with strong cultural, intellectual, and educational roots – its university, for example, founded in 1813, is the oldest in Central America. Nicaragua is, however, beset by many natural disasters - volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and tidal waves – all of which hit the poorest hardest.

León and Oxford have been twinned since 1986 and our association helps charities in the region while also offering educational support in Oxford for visitors from León.

The photographs here document the work of two of these charities: Nuevas esperanzas (NE) and Nicaragua Education Culture & Arts Trust (NECAT), both supported by the Oxford León Association and Trust (OLAT). NE helps villagers to engage with sustainable development programmes in poor remote rural communities around León, whose water is contaminated by arsenic, the arsenic is naturally occurring in the volcanic rock around the Telica volcano; NE has sourced and piped clean water to these communities. Most of the men are away from home working to earn money and many women cultivate the crops and have set up beekeeping with production and marketing support and advice from NE.

Wrocław, Poland

Wrocław has had a turbulent past, having been part of numerous states over the centuries; and it has some splendid buildings and landmarks as a result. Following the Second World War it became part of Poland again and it maintains a rich blend of culture and learning.

The University of Wrocław, just one of many higher education institutions in the city with a total student population of 135,000, has many Nobel laureates amongst its alumni. The city officially twinned with Oxford in 2018.

The photographer

Sławek Przerwa writes: ‘From the beginning, emotions were important in my journey as a photographer. Some inner desire made me try to capture and record these moments. It all started in a small jazz club where I used to go to listen to concerts. While I was indulging in the music, looking at the artists on stage, it dawned on me that what they were doing was so authentic, sincere, and strong that it would be good to capture it. So I started taking the camera with me. For several years, having witnessed thousands of such moments, I managed to put together a large collection of these unique moments.

For several years I have been creating a project entitled ‘One Minute Jazz Portrait’, which already consists of about 160 photos.

The cycle is still in progress and it will probably be so for the coming years.

The photographs have been shown at jazz festivals in Wrocław and Lviv and my hope is to make a book of them.

When I got to know the subject of Photo Oxford Festival, I thought it would be worth showing the women I have seen on stage. The world of jazz is dominated by men, but there have always been remarkable, passionate and talented women among them. They take us into their own worlds and tell their stories in a unique way. ‘

Ramallah, Palestine

Ramallah is a Palestinian city 16km north of Jerusalem. It is a bustling cosmopolitan city with a rich culture and heritage. Oxford and Ramallah signed a formal Twinning Agreement in 2019, recognising a 15-year friendship link created by the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association. The Association coordinates events and activities to increase cultural awareness and understanding between the two cities through individual visits and organisational exchanges, some of which are documented here.

Cultural awareness and understanding between our cities have been built through individual visits and organisational exchanges, some of which are documented here.

The photographers

Aleksandra Magdziarz joined Oxford-Ramallah Friendship Association three-and-a-half years ago. Through her photography and videography, she wants to promote Palestinian cultural and natural heritage and to further campaign for urgent political change in the region.

Nikki Marriott's aim in these photographs is to try to capture moments of connection between people in Oxford and Ramallah; her images bear witness to times when we learnt a little about life in Palestine and the hardships of living under occupation.

Barry Wooding visited Ramallah and Hebron as part of a Trade Union delegation from Oxford.

Padua, Italy

In 2019 Oxford officially twinned with Padua, one of the oldest cities in Northern Italy, home to the University of Padua, founded in 1222, and also the world’s first Botanical Garden, created in 1545. There are strong university connections between Oxford and Padua and the Oxford Padova Link promotes activities connecting the two cities.

In 2020 Padua is the European Capital of Volunteering. The photographs illustrate the theme of ‘Women who make a difference in Padua'. They focus on women in voluntary organisations in Padua who use photographs in social media to promote their cause.

DOMNA is an association based in the Quartiere Nord in Padua which promotes social and cultural initiatives and combats social exclusion. Formed by a group of 23 women, all professionals in different fields, it offers support and provides activities for families, the elderly, children, in fact everybody, in social, cultural, sports and educational contexts.

The Photographers

Giovanni Sgobba, born in Bari in 1988, is a freelance professional journalist and photographer, who also contributes to DOMNA. He works with various local and national newspapers and magazines. He has lived in Padua since 2015 and in 2016 he started to create a project called ‘Sguardi d'Arcella’ that tells stories of the Arcella neighbourhood and its inhabitants through words and photos.

Silvia Belotti, born near Bergamo in 1980, has lived and worked in Padua since 2000. She is a non-professional photographer and a volunteer for Associazione DOMNA, also managing the association’s social media. Her photos here document moments during these activities. She also creates graphic artworks from photos and worked on some of Giovanni’s photographs for this project.

Loretta Marini considers herself ‘not exceptional, just a normal person’ who combines her family life with volunteering. Her images illustrate the areas she volunteers in. These include working with:

  • Suor Giusta, a nun based in Asmara, to distribute food supplies to mothers and children in Eritrea

  • Clown therapy for children in paediatric oncology wards, care homes for the elderly and for the disabled, and in family centres

  • FIAB, the Italian environment and cycling federation, both as national representatives and locally in the Padua branch

  • An association in Saccolongo (just outside Padua) helping to organise historical reconstructions evoking country life in the 1920s-1940s with displays of the bicycles used by farmworkers to ply their trades.

Leiden, The Netherlands

Leiden is Oxford’s oldest twin, having been established immediately after the Second World War. Both cities share much in terms of ancient universities which, along with their students on bikes, permeate their respective cities, fine architecture, and a rich cultural life. It has been estimated that 10,000 people have travelled between our cities since 1946, on visits which have involved education, culture, sport, and social activities

The Photographer

Eelkje Colmjon studied photography in Amsterdam and lives in Leiden. She currently works as a freelance photographer and has had her work commissioned by several companies and magazines. In her work the human being and what makes us human plays a key role. She travels all over the globe to make intimate portraits of the people she meets. In 2019 she was chosen as The City Photographer of her hometown, Leiden.

With the series ‘The Future is Now’ Eelkje has captured the dreams and fears of inspiring people with a mission. She writes:

A surfer who fights against plastic soup, an artist who creates floating cities, a twelve-year-old boy who wants to go to the moon ..... I was looking for idealists and dreamers. And I found them: passionate people who wanted to share their dreams, and who gave us a glimpse into the future. I show the world of tomorrow - sometimes seriously, but often also with humour.

Eelkje Colmjon, City Photographer of Leiden, 2019-2020 www.EELK.nl