Saturday, January 28, 2023

Cofield on Oxford: Faulkner Has Fans Everywhere — Especially Japan

Cultural mixup — which one is William Faulkner?

I was talking with a friend yesterday and we were discussing whether Oxford appreciated Mr. Faulkner, then, or now, or not. And then a story came to mind.
Faulkner put us on the map, period. It doesn’t matter whether they liked him, whether he liked them or whether you can read Faulkner…or just can’t ‘get it.’ The fact of the matter is that other than Ole Miss being a pretty much regional school, at the time, with a limited draw, Oxford was changed forever by William Faulkner. And, if he wasn’t appreciated enough by some locals back then, he certainly was appreciated outside of Oxford.
At Cofield’s Studio we had firsthand knowledge of just how far Mr. Faulkner’s reach went. Every corner of the globe had contacted us about William Faulkner photographs. At one point Mother had saved envelopes from 50 to 60 countries. But, some of the most loyal Faulkner followers were the Japanese tourist who would make their way to Oxford and Cofield’s Studio.
So, one day, a group of eight on nine of the most stereotypical Japanese sightseers came in the shop. All dressed in black slacks, black leather shoes and white short sleeve shirts…cameras around their necks — every one. Only two could speak English, and not all that well either. So finally they got it out that they wanted their picture taken by Dad. He didn’t know why since everyone in the room had a camera, but he said sure. So he started to turn on the lights and adjust the camera when they all started shaking their heads….no. Finally they convinced Dad to walk from the Warehouse up the Square for their photo. By now, Dad was enjoying this little adventure. He followed them right up to the Confederate statue where they all started taking positions for the photo. When they were ready, several were pointing at the soldier and Dad couldn’t figure out why they wanted to make sure he got the soldier. But they were paying, so Dad got several shots, avoiding traffic all the while.
Then they all walked back down to the studio. At which point one of the tourist opened the Cofield book on Faulkner and was pointing to the photo of Mr. Faulkner in his RAF uniform, from just after World War I. The two who could semi-communicate stopped talking when Dad busted out laughing, he couldn’t help it!
The Japanese were sure that since William Faulkner was the town’s most famous citizen — bar none — that the biggest statue would be his. They thought the confederate statue was William Faulkner. Dad tried to explain that the statue was for the Civil War, second place. But they never ‘got it.’
Courtesy of John Cofield, a writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer Jack Cofield. His grandfather, “Col.” J. R. Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well. Contact John at