olive and oak

elize strydom's photo journal

Category: have you read?

here there and everywhere

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So I feel like a bit of an internet hog at the moment. I’ve done lots of interviews/Q&As re: Small Town Girl and while I’m thrilled that the project is attracting interest and that people are connecting, I’m uncomfortable with self-promotion. But I’m trying to look at it in the same way a band might when they release an album. They present something they’ve been working on in private to the public and then talk about it/answer questions then tour then disappear again and toil away on something new. I’m far more interested in the ‘toiling away’ part. And I know that will begin again soon: I’m making plans to go photograph Indigenous girls and young refugees in Western Australia. But if you have some time to kill between now and then, feel free to click on one or two of the articles below and listen to me waffle on!

Small Town Girl on…

Buzzfeed

Vice

Between 10 and 5

The Australian newspaper

Ngaio Parr’s blog

Jason de Plater’s blog

The Daily Examiner (my hometown newspaper!)

The drawing above is by the wonderful Ngaio and I’m flattered! I mean, how often does someone take the time to draw you? Such a cool thing.

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old news

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An old picture taken in my old room late last year (the old days). This room, this time, feels like forever ago. Since moving out of that house I’ve slept in 18 (count ‘em!) different beds and am now settled in just one. Well, more like two.

In 2014 I made a concerted effort to get back into books. Reading is something that brings me great joy and fulfilment but somehow I’d let it slip away. I read 20 books and these are some of them. I was hoping to get through 40 this year but I’m off to a terrible start. I’m part-way through Spinster – Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick, Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon, Cry of the Kalahari by Mark & Delia Owens and Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion.

There are many, many photos I’d like to post and stories I’d like to share but this is it for now. I’ll be back soon, promise.

on a clear night

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A week ago, at the end of that really hot day, I spent a few hours taking photos of Ange and Amelia up on Ange’s rooftop in the city. I bossed them about and took snap after snap. They indulged me, like always, and dutifully obliged as I told them to “stand here/walk over there/look up/act natural/STOP!” Anyone who knows me well knows that the only time I assert myself and act with certainty is when I’m behind the camera, shooting what I want to shoot. I get in the zone, as they say, and all distractions fade away. I’m wrapped in ribbons of euphoria, a goofy grin on my face, as I make pictures that may or may not end up the way I imagined they would. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s the process that elates me. The possibilities, the potential for a ‘perfect’ capture. Instead of depleting my creativity stores, being creative seems only to replenish them.

I walked home in a haze, relishing the warmth of the evening, lungs full of intoxicating spring scents. I noticed a girl riding her bike fast down the middle of the road. She was gazing up towards the sky, long hair flowing behind her, as if she expected the wheels to lift off the ground at any moment. It really did seem like she was flying. That goofy grin spread across my face again and I felt like I was walking on a dream. It struck me that my life is full, so full, of intelligent, bright, creative, gorgeous women. These women are my best friends and I treasure them. When I was younger I was one of those guy-friend girls. ‘I just don’t get other girls,’ I remember thinking. ‘All of the drama! All of the petty fights! No thanks, I’m not that kind of girl! Guys are just so much easier to be friends with.’ I didn’t realise it at the time, but as this article on xoJane explains, “…I can see (now) that my subconscious strategy for coping in a sexist society was to align myself with men, to avail myself of their considerable powers of protection, to get what I could from them using the only weapons readily available to me — my body, my charm, my femininity and my compliance. By gaining the approval of those in charge, I hoped to gain access to the perks and opportunities of masculinity.” I’m currently reading, no, devouring, Lena Dunham’s ‘Not That Kind of Girl‘ and feeling grateful for who she is and the difference she’s making. I was late to feminism; I still have a lot to learn.

Two days ago I joined a girl gang for a roadtrip to Canberra to attend a flower festival, Floriade. Being with these women – chatting to them in the car, strolling around the festival, taking photos, sharing, connecting – filled me. When we got back  the city was steamy. Lee, Maddy and I drove to the coast, sun setting behind us. We dipped our toes into an ocean pool then jumped into the cool darkness. As we swam through the saltwater I looked at their wet, shining faces, lit by a combination of moonlight and distant citylight, and I was happy. Our eyes adjusted and we realised we were surrounded by blue bottles. We shrieked and scurried and how none of us were stung, I’ll never know.  We giggled as we wrapped towels around our shivering bodies, amazed by our lucky escape. I aimed my phone in the direction of the sea and took a grainy photo, to remember.

I implore you to read Amelia’s latest blog post here. And if you want to get a visual sense of the things I’ve written about – the photos taken on film won’t be back for a week or so – you can check out my VSCO grid.

girl and the sea

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“So I closed my eyes and the salty air filled up my head and covered my face like the gentle hands of every person in the world who was ever in love with anyone.”Nobody Is Ever Missing, Catherine Lacey

Yesterday RaRa and I spent a few glorious hours on the rocks at Gordon’s Bay chatting about all of the things, taking personality tests (turns out I’m INFP…ohhh yes, I am) and devouring The Ladies Reading Circle’s prescribed text, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. I opened my eyes as I swam beneath the surface and felt free, free indeed.

Today is the 29th of September and I say happy, happy birthday to a dear friend across the sea.

i wish you

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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

 

sundays in the states

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One of my favourite things to do in the US is buy the Sunday New York Times and spend a few hours reading it in a cafe (or two). Of course, I could hang out in any Sydney cafe and read it online but that just ain’t the same. Last Sunday I was in San Francisco and struggled to find the Sunday NYT. I picked up a copy from a bookstore on Monday and slowly worked my way through it over the course of this last week. These photos were taken at (top) Heart and (bottom) Stumptown in Portland, OR. a few weeks ago. 

overgrown

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It’s been out for more than a year but Overgrown by James Blake still slays me. Every time. And I haven’t tired of listening to it. All the time.  The moment’s other go-to artists include Sun Kil Moon, Asgeir, James Vincent McMorrow and Death Cab for Cutie. 

There are quite a few fun gigs coming up. If I didn’t have to get on a plane at 6:30am tomorrow I’d be at Oscar Key Sung and Banoffee at Good God tonight, fo’ sure. But next Monday I’m shooting the Jezabels at the Sydney Opera House and the week after that it’s the Arctic Monkeys and not long after that (drum roll) LAURYN HILL (!). I was going to Lorde’s Sydney show scheduled for next Friday but unfortunately it has been postponed until, like, November.

Book-wise, I’m reading Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver. To The Wedding by John Berger is next in line. I think I see a theme emerging…

Dan and I are working our way through Parks & Recreation with a little Community thrown in from time to time. I started watching Breaking Bad but it upset me and made me quite anxious so I quit. I know everyone raves about it but I really don’t think it’s for me. 

And finally, I’m devouring Matt Eich’s photography. The best stuff I’ve seen in a very long time. Intimate, poetic, fearless.

modern art = i could do that + yeah, but you didn’t

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Last Wednesday evening Dan and I were picking up some film scans from my lab in Redfern when we bumped into Ange who was on her way to wall ball. She’s invited me to play so many times but it’s always on a Sunday afternoon when I go to church. But there ain’t no church on a Wednesday so we joined in and played a few rounds and man, was it fun. I hadn’t played handball against a wall for years and years. Next it was up to Kings Cross for a photography exhibition. We met Amelia and headed for an underground car park where Samuel Hodge was showing his work as part of Alaska Projects. I’ve followed Samuel for a while and often take his photo book Pretty Telling I Suppose off my shelf for a read but I had never been to one of his exhibitions. This one was called ‘The Imponderable Archive’ – four framed images that he’d made based on profile pictures from gay dating sites. The absurd, sex, reappropriation and fashion were obvious, general themes but I must admit, I struggle to ‘get’ what he’s doing. I want to, though…I want to understand.

I guess the criteria by which I judge a photography exhibition is based on an artist’s commitment to the project and/or body of work (which can be measured in terms of time spent researching and producing it, the lengths they went to to create it – scope of the shots, distance traveled, challenges overcome, envelopes pushed etc., the belief and confidence they have in it, efforts to prioritise art making in their life), its ability to tell a story or communicate a message, technical skill and aesthetic quality.

That said, I’m reminded of a really apt poster I saw a while back that said ‘Modern art = I could do that + yeah, but you didn’t.’ So a big chunk of what makes an artist valuable or legit in my book is that they ‘did it’. Samuel Hodge ‘did it’ and staged a solo exhibition, one of many he’s had in both Australia and Europe.

Now – a disclaimer – I don’t believe I have all of the skills to ‘properly’ assess or critique art. I’ve undertaken less than six months of formal photography study so I’m aware that I probably don’t view it within the ‘correct’ framework or have the appropriate tools to dissect it. I DO know that there’s a lot I DON’T know but I’ve written these words largely for myself, to make sense of my thoughts and record my progress as I seek a greater understanding of art and expression. Sure I could have written in my journal instead but by ‘putting it out there’ into this relatively safe space I’m forced to order my thoughts and coherently discuss my position. Which I think I did? Enough for now.

Anyway…these two – Amelia and Dan – love ’em. After the exhibition we had a stroll around the Cross then went back to Amelia’s for wine and reading recommendations. Amelia’s aiming to read 50 books this year while I’m going for 20 and Dan’s goal is four. I’m currently devouring John Safran’s true crime book Murder In Mississippi.

about life

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My dear friend Liz is currently over the seas with her mister. She’s taking pictures with a camera that keeps letting too much light in and writing words that make me feel as though I am alongside her, every time I read her blog. I really like blogs like Liz’s. There’s no specific theme and the posts are all about her life, real life. If a blogger a) takes photos on film and b) writes honestly and openly about their life, then you can pretty much guarantee I’ll bookmark the page and check back often. Lots of blogs focus on fashion, food, photography, parenting etc. – which is totally fine –  but I’m drawn to accounts of the personal, day to day stuff. Here are some of my favourites: Rose & Crown, Schorlemaedchen and Something From My Day. I’m sure there are others that I’m not aware of so if you have some suggestions please comment and let me know!

how should a person be?

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I just finished “How Should A Person Be?’ by Sheila Heti. Here are some (out of context) quotes from the book that I like:

‘I believed it to be gold and held it near.’

‘I don’t care about success. I have it in my heart now.’

‘In the daytime, austerity. In the nighttime, oblivion.’

‘I wanted a day without morning or evening. I wanted a day of rest.’

I’m a collector of words and phrases that appear beautiful to me and/or conjure up some grand vision. If ever I feel like escaping for a wee while, I slowly read over my collection. It always does the trick.