olive and oak

elize strydom's photo journal

Month: August, 2013

this place

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In the middle of my Small Town Girl USA project I took a week off in New York City. I’ve long been in love with the place and first visited in September 2009, on a whim. I booked a flight and told my boss I’d be back in three weeks. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My jaunt happened to coincide with All Tomorrow’s Parties and I wrangled a photographer’s pass to attend the three day festival in upstate New York. I shot some epic bands: Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, Shellac, The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, Bridezilla, the Drones, Iron & Wine, and Deerhunter – a surreal experience. The city got under my skin and the buzz of my little solo adventure never really wore off. Once home, I started thinking of ways to get back there. I knew I wanted to stay for a substantial period of time but I didn’t want to simply be a tourist. So in June 2011, a day after Bon Iver released Bon Iver, a day after seeing one of The Middle East’s last ever shows, a day after starting a relationship with a dear boy, I got on a plane and flew to the States. I’d been accepted into a photo journalism course at the International Center of Photography and had lined up 11 weeks accommodation with an Australian couple living in Brooklyn. What can I say about that time? It was a dream; I was learning so much about myself, my craft, the way the world works, the way relationships don’t work. At times I was wide eyed, hungry, curious and in awe. Then sometimes I was bored, lonely, lost and longing. I couldn’t get over how much freedom I had. Looking back, though, I see my heart was still very much at home. Still, when it came time to leave, it physically hurt and I certainly wasn’t ready. Which is why I couldn’t wait to get back there in July this year. But, if I’m honest, it just wasn’t the same. I found the city too loud, too hot, too smelly and too busy. Everyone seemed to be hustling, hard. The little crew I hung out with in the summer of 2011 were scattered all over the place, the couple I’d lived with in Brooklyn had broken up, I didn’t have much money and my sense of wonder seemed lost somewhere. After spending five weeks with warm families in close-knit communities, it was fair to say I experienced some form of culture shock. Of course, I could have been over-thinking the whole thing or maybe I was just a little worn out. I definitely did have fun and there were moments when I was reminded just how crazy special the city is….I was just in a different frame of mind, my focus had shifted. I’m sure the next time I visit I’ll have a blast and wonder what I was thinking during that week in July 2013…

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dream girl

ImageLittle Ali from the Gold Coast. She’s chasing her dreams in big, bad NYC now.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

33rd Annual Morgner Family Lobster Bake

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I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years but a sweet, tender lobster put an end to all of that.

As part of the Small Town Girl project, I stayed with a family in the coastal village of Damariscotta, Maine. It just so happened that my stay coincided with the 33rd Annual Morgner Family Lobster Bake.

On the day of the bake Allie, her father, brother and I woke early and went to pluck the lobsters from the water and transfer them to a couple of eskies. Back home, seaweed that we’d collected the day before was laid out over a low platform above a big campfire. Potatoes and onions wrapped in foil were placed on top then the lobsters were poured out of the eskies. Corn on the cob was arranged alongside the lobsters. Wooden boxes of muscles and clams and crates of eggs went on next. All of that was covered with another layer of seaweed and a canvas tarp went over the top of everything then a fire was lit underneath. Once the tarp was too hot to touch, I was told that the lobsters would need another 20 minutes. When the time was almost up an egg was removed and cracked open. It was done and that meant the lobsters were, too. The tarp was lifted off and the seaweed shovelled away to reveal bright orange lobsters. Men, women and children couldn’t grab their cardboard box lid trays fast enough. The food was piled on and the feast began. I was given just the smallest sample and had to really psych myself up to put the soft, white meat into my mouth (you can see that moment here). At first it felt all wrong but once I relaxed I realised I was actually enjoying what I was eating. So I had another bite…and another. And then there was no turning back.

It was such fun to be a part of this family’s long running tradition. Bill Morgner (dad) was so excited to include me in the process and explain how and why he did certain things. I find gatherings centred around food fascinating; there’s so much more to them than the actual meal. I’ve been such a strict vegetarian for the longest time but eating the lobster felt like a natural, respectful thing to do that day. I’m constantly observing and analysing and capturing life but sometimes it’s important to just be in it.

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strangeways in bushwick

ImageWhen I visited NYC in 2009, cupcakes were all the rage. Magnolia Bakery cupcakes to be precise. Then during my stay in the summer of 2011 it was all about ice cream. Who could come up with the most attention grabbing combination? Pear and blue cheese! Sweet corn and black raspberries! Strawberry honey balsamic and black pepper, if you don’t mind! When I was in the city a few weeks back it was clear that doughnuts were the latest must-have for mouths. I jumped on that bandwagon quick smart and made daily trips to Doughnut Plant. I then read about rival, Dough, and decided I needed to sample their offerings, too. All in the name of balance, you see. One morning while strolling around Bushwick I saw a sandwich board sign with the magic words on it: ‘Dough doughnuts served here’. YES. The cafe I’d stumbled upon was Strangeways Coffee. And what a find it was! I ordered a dulce de leche and toasted almond doughnut (though I was tempted by mojito with candied mint leaf and lemon with olive oil and thyme, decisions decisions) and mentioned my food trend observations to the barista, Eddy. He agreed and added quinoa and kale to the list. The topic turned to coffee and he asked why Aussies are so particular when it comes to black gold. Really, Eddy? Are we having that conversation? I let it slide and he let me take some snaps around the cafe. Thanks, Eddy! Oh and the doughnut was to die for. The juice fast starts when I get back to Sydney…

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