olive and oak

elize strydom's photo journal

two years






Somehow I overlooked the fact that this blog turned two last month. Apologies, Olive and Oak – happy belated birthday! I’m quite fond of this space and I do appreciate you popping in to see what I’ve been photographing and mulling over. WordPress stats tell me that more than 60, 000 people from all over the world have visited since my first post in August 2012. That’s pretty cool. Anyway, onward and upward: Here are some shots taken over the last month starting with Bonnie and Matty’s winter wedding.

























All photos developed and scanned at Richard Photo Lab

this is what it feels like now


Every morning I roll out of bed and pull on the same ripped jeans and a t-shirt, slip my feet into a pair of Birks, twist my hair up to a top knot. I grab the camera and a book and go. I wind my way through the quiet, leafy back streets parallel to King and am passed by cyclists, joggers and early morning commuters. They’re all being pulled towards the city, carried along by an invisible current. I’m swimming up stream. I keep an eye out for neighbourhood cats, will them to come out of their homes so I can say hello and scratch their furry chins. First stop is the little fruit and veg shop run by the two brothers. ‘Extra ginger, right?’ George makes me a juice and we trade small pieces of information. I know what time he gets up and the TV shows he watches at night. I know that he’s trying to cut back on carbs. I sip my juice and walk a few steps further down the way to my coffee place, Shenkin. ‘Morning!’ beams Joss. ‘The usual?’ Wow, that. I mean, all any of us really want in this world is to be known by our barista, right? For ages Joss called me ‘miss’ but the other day he asked me my name and told me his. This morning he’s playing Melody’s Echo Chamber and I can’t hide my delight. I drink my flat white and read my book and watch King Street chaos out the window. The ‘coffee feeling’ – wellbeing and optimism mixed with motivation and clarity – washes over me and I start scribbling notes on a page of my journal, urgently, before the revelations slip away. I make sense and I make plans. I hand over coins, put a few in the tip jar, and mouth ‘bye’ to Joss who’s now swamped with orders, caffeine addicts in suits and pencil skirts with runners staring him down. As I pass the supermarket I notice someone has spray painted ‘GROW UP!’ on the wall in big red letters. ‘Trying,’ I mumble to myself as I take a photo. The protruding roots of the giant fig tree next to the church provide the perfect place for me to perch and read a few more pages (just a few more, just a few more). I don’t know the time but I feel the responsibilities of the day drawing me home. That invisible current is picking me up, carrying me back towards the city. It’s nice, this start to the day. 


It really is a lovely little life but not one I ever imagined. When I was a teenager I thought about what it would be like to go to uni and I thought about what it would be like to be married and I thought about what it would be like to be a mum. I didn’t think about what it would be like to be 31 and single and living in a terrace house in the city with Rachel. The options, the uncertainty, the fun, the spontaneity, the emptiness, the possibilities, the longing, this way? that way? both. You know, I think I’m in love with all of it and maybe I’d like to stay around a wee while (just a wee while, just a wee while) and get to know this place, this unfamiliar un-thought about place.

Rachel’s getting to know this place, too. She just wrote a special piece about life round here. 

happy birthday, amelia


Happy birthday to this beer brewing beauty. Over the last three years, Amelia has become one of my best friends and closest confidants. We share a desk, a microphone, a love of words, Sharon Van Etten and Bright Eyes. We calm each other through bouts of anxiety and she helps me untie all of the knots in my head and heart. She challenges me to think harder and feel deeper and gently pushes me to be better. Her mind intrigues me, her radiance captivates me and her stories are simply stellar. I love you, AM. 


tonight what feels important is this


Deeper and deeper they talked, baring their souls. Akhmatova confessed her loneliness, expressed her passions, spoke about literature and art. Berlin had to go to the bathroom but didn’t dare break the spell. They had read all the same things, knew what the other knew, understood each other’s longings. That night, Ignatieff writes, Berlin’s life “came as close as it ever did to the still perfection of art.” He finally pulled himself away and returned to his hotel. It was 11 a.m. He flung himself on the bed and exclaimed, “I am in love; I am in love.” An extract from this extraordinary piece: ‘Love Story’

A special thanks to Grizzly Bear for providing my late night soundtrack. Yellow House is still my favourite record. 


friends of mountains



Last month I went to New Zealand with one of my best friends, Lyndal. These photos were taken on the road between Christchurch and Queenstown + Queenstown + Milford Sound. This was last time

she waits, seething, blooming

now hear this000052680032

I wanted to be closer to her because she seemed like the future to me. – Quiet, Dave Eggers

A portrait of Amelia at the Little Marionette and Ange at home with her cello. 

(Click on each image to enlarge)

suddenly, last summer


“I have very fond memories of the Ace Hotel in Portland. Yeah, that is some place where I played with my ‘perfect world’ game. And I thought that Portland might get pretty close. Man, there is nothing like a Portland summer. But then I also realised that as soon as you make a place home, you invite entanglements, and Portland seemed like a place that I would want to keep free from that. As long as I don’t make it my home it stays perfection. I can miss it, I can yearn for it, I can fantasise about it and I can visit it and have the best time.” 

Oh nothing, just Michelle Williams describing EXACTLY HOW I FEEL. I’m currently leafing through back issues of Hobo magazine and reading an interview Michelle did when Meek’s Cutoff was released. I’ve been meaning to see that film since 2011.  

night, all night


But my nights were you. My happy thing, the best part. – Daniel Handler

i wish you

I read a Thought Catalog post (I know, I know) a while back and it talked about the way one new song can sustain you for the better part of a week. ‘I don’t need a flirty text message, a delicious meal, or an amazing night out. I’m pretty much set with my New Favorite Song.’ That has certainly been my experience over the last few days.

I’m still listening to Angus and Julia Stone’s self titled record plus Lana Del Rey’s sophomore, Ultraviolence. FKA twigs (I’m in awe…so intrigued ) joined the line up on Monday and Jason Feathers was Tuesday’s unexpected offering. Pitchfork describes De Oro as an album from a ‘mystery band’ but my pals at work tell me it’s actually Justin Vernon, his Bon Iver bandmate S. Carey and American MC Astronautalis. At first I found it quite disconcerting and abrasive but subsequent spins revealed moments of intense beauty. For example, the last three minutes of Sacred Math and all of Cyclone. Allow yourself to be drawn in. The album will be released on August 19 – my birthday. Gee thanks, Justin! 

Then there was Erlend Oye’s newie Garota which my friend Tom described as a ‘sultry trans-continental ill-fated attraction with a solid groove.’ Ha! It was a well-timed accompaniment to my moody Thursday evening. Watch/hear the bittersweet tale unfold here

And this afternoon at work I pressed play on a song Amelia recommended that I assumed would be background noise: Murmurs by Hundred Waters. Instead, everything around me fell away and fierce tears stung my eyes. I had it on repeat for hours and was only vaguely aware of anything else. Sometimes a song has the ability to take all of your conflicting emotions and half thoughts and if onlys and wishes and make perfect sense of them. Today, Murmurs was that song.

I wish you…I wish you would see what I see

Were you there? Were you there? Were you ever alive? 

I wish I would see what you see

Silly silly silly me
I used to…used to see
Now our only light
Is blowing out

Goodness, what a week. Has it taken a toll on you, too? I felt far too many feelings this week. One day it was as if I could drag a finger over my skin and physically trace the delicious bursts of dopamine coursing through my veins and the next I was drained of all motivation, inspiration and wonder. Amelia and I spoke about having the tendency to operate solely on an emotional level (Doesn’t everyone? Apparently not.) and I was reminded of this quote that Meg posted recently:

Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.’ – Rainer Maria Rilke


small town girl – south africa

I was conceived in South Africa but my mum and big brother moved to Australia a few months before my due date. And so I was born here and had a life like this. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like had we stayed in South Africa. My dad is still there but I’ve only met him once. I’m curious. I want to get a glimpse of the adolescence I could have had. I want to meet the people I could have known. I want to understand the things I could have learned. I want to know what life is like for teenage girls in small town South Africa, girls of diverse origins, cultures, languages and religions.  

Over the last two years I have photographed 12 girls for my Small Town Girl Project – four in Australia and eight in the United States – and in February and March 2015 my camera and I will head to South Africa to live with/photograph another six girls. I’m looking for 13-19 year olds with diverse cultural and racial backgrounds who live in towns with a population of 20,000 or less. I’ll live with you and your family/friends for a week and follow you around, taking photos of your everyday life. The photos will form a body of work that will be exhibited in art galleries around Australia, the US and South Africa. 

If you’re interested in finding out more or if you know someone who might be, please comment here or email me for details: elizestrydom@live.com.au You can see more photos from the project so far here and here and here. Feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and any of your other social networks. Be sure to check out the Small Town Girl project Instagram, too!




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