olive and oak

elize strydom's photo journal

Category: over the seas

this is south africa – part two

000096100015

000096120036

000096110015

000096130022

000096100021

000096120031

000096120034

000096120028

000096130025

000096110011

000096120007

000096120008

000096120013

000096140009

000096140010

000096110032

000096140012

000096140017

000096140007

000096140026

000096130021

In the heat of the day the dusty streets of Jouberton are deserted but once the sun starts to sink they fill with families, men on their way home from work, quarreling kids, grandmas in green and the occasional chicken. Cooking ingredients are exchanged and meal offers are made but no one goes home until well after dark. There’s nowhere else to be and it’s clear that nothing’s more important than sitting by the side of the road chatting with your neighbour while your children play nearby.

18 year old Mpho lives with her grandmother, mother, little brother, aunties and cousins plus two month old Lethabo in a three bedroom home. “Family and friends come to stay all the time,” she says. “It’s hard to get a bath around here – unless you’re Lethabo.”

She completed her matric (year 12 exams) last year at a boarding school a few hours away but has now moved home again. She plans to go to college next year and wants to be a nurse. We spend the days walking around her neighbourhood (“Everyone is staring at you,” she said. “But don’t worry, I’ll be your bodyguard.”) and hanging out with her best friend, Lebogang, singing along to songs on the music channel and sitting by the side of the road eating ice blocks to stay cool. Lebogang and Mpho grew up together in Jouberton. He’ll finish high school at the end of the year and then plans to move to Cape Town to study law. They both love music and have incredible singing voices. “Do you like Sia? What about Ellie Goulding? And London Grammar? Yes? Ahhh we’re the same!” said an excited Mpho.

As soon as school finishes, Mpho goes from house to house, visiting her friends. They sit outside listening to music on their phones, eating peaches and pomegranates from the trees or chips and ice blocks bought for less that 10 cents from one of the many ‘tuck shops’. One day I offered Mpho some of my dried fruit/nut/seed mix. She wasn’t keen. “Ew, no thanks!” Later she offered me some of her chicken feet (aka ‘runaways’). You can probably guess my response.

Mpho always wears a hat and long pants or sleeves – even on 40 degree c days like today – because she says she doesn’t want her skin to get any darker. “I’m black on the outside but white on the inside,” she told me.

Photographing Mpho was just one of those wonderful, unexpected encounters that ended up being better than anything I could have imagined or planned. Being the only white person in the community felt uncomfortable and strange but I think it was important to experience that.  At times it was confronting and challenging but for the most part it was just plain fun. Mpho and I really connected and she felt like a real friend.

All photos shot with a Leica M6 and Kodak Portra film. Developed and scanned at Richard Photo Lab.

this is south africa – part one

000096060036

000096060031

000096060023

000096060008

000096080007

000096080001

000096050025

000096050027

000096050031

000096050012

000096050018

000096040014

000096040021

000096070007

000096070032

000096080016

000096080023

000096080035

000096090008

000096090020

000096090022

I’d been to South Africa twice before but had only visited major cities and tourist-y spots. Shooting Small Town Girl there earlier this year meant I was able to get off the beaten track and meet real people and get a taste of their day to day lives. I feel like my assumptions of South Africa were constantly being challenged/smashed and for that I am extremely grateful. In Nieu-Bethesda I photographed Rebecca and stayed with her family and didn’t want to leave. The landscape reminded me of something in between Broken Hill, Australia and Palm Springs, USA and I had to keep reminding myself where I was. The village proper has a population of approximately 100 people (and no paved roads…but a charming network of water furrows). With the surrounding farms and black/coloured township that number is closer to 1500. It’s situated in the Great Karoo, a vast semi-desert region, and is scorching in summer and snowy in winter. Much like Broken Hill, there are little galleries and studios all over town and ever second person you meet is a painter or jeweler or ceramicist. While Rebecca was at school I cruised around Nieu-Bethesda on a bike, taking photos of this and that, and hung out at this place which was part beer brewery, part coffee roastery and part cheese factory. So, in other words, heaven (aka The Brewery). I met two US backpackers there and we went on a canyon hike then caught a ride back to town on the roof of a local’s old Landrover. I drank Rooibos tea with Rebecca’s beautiful mum Bronwen and we connected over similar life choices and upbringings and outlooks. On Friday night a South African musician named Guy Buttery performed and afterwards I found myself sitting around a campfire with a group of locals and a few other travelers , sharing stories and smokes. I rode my bike home through the black night aware of my place below the massive mountains. The next few days at Rebecca’s place consisted of rustic meals around the family table, a trip through the Owl House, swims and a picnic lunch in a gorge. I wanted to wrap myself up in the warmth of this little family forever. I felt so nourished after a week with them in such a spectacular, peculiar hidden gem of a small town.

These shots were taken on my Leica M6 and Canon 1V and developed/scanned at Richard Photo Lab.

 

 


					

durban days

alex dyson high res (1 of 1)

000022840029

000022840018

Deb and her husband Mike lived in Australia for two years but have now settled back home in South Africa. We became friends after meeting at church in Sydney and I was lucky enough to spend two weekends with them in Durban in between Small Town Girl shoots. It was cool to be in the city with a couple of locals who knew their way around and where to get the best coffee (v. important). We visited Deb’s friend Amy Venter who’s a fashion designer and owner of Jane Sews, an artisan clothing, footwear and leather label. She was in the middle of setting up a new space at The Commune I really wanted to buy all of the things – every gorgeous item is designed and made in Durban – but I was traveling with just a backpack and a duffle bag so it wasn’t practical. Thank goodness for online shopping, though, right? On this particular day, Deb was tossing up whether or not to rent a space at The Commune for Bouwer Flowers, her floral design studio. All over South Africa I met passionate artists/designers/musicians/photographers/florists and jewellers creating scenes, working hard and making things happen. A vibrant, cutting edge creative industry is probably not the first thing you think of when someone mentions SA but it soon will be, trust me.

so much to tell you

Elize Strydom web main page

…and so many pictures to show you. But they’re currently sailing through the sky somewhere between Los Angeles and Sydney and won’t arrive before I say goodbye to my laptop and hop on a plane bound for South Africa. Over the next two and a bit months I’ll visit towns with names like Nieu-Bethesda and Ngodwana and Eendekuil and photograph the teenage girls who live there. Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of what my life could have been like? I’ll see my dad, aunties, cousins – family I met for the first time 12 years ago and haven’t seen since – and I’ll experience so much more of this wonderful ol’ world, stuff I can’t even imagine right now. I’m seriously amazed at the journey photography has taken me on and I’m feeling genuinely blessed to be off on another adventure. I’ll be holding onto all of the film and developing/scanning it when I get back in mid April but until then please do follow along at the Small Town Girl project Instagram x

room for rent

000018320036

Sadly, I have to say goodbye to dear Rachel and the little blue house. I’m going to South Africa at the beginning of February and I’ll be there a few months so it’s just not practical to keep my room in Newtown. If you or someone you know is looking for somewhere to live (a renovated terrace house on Wilson street, across the road from Carriageworks/Eveleigh Markets, super close to Sydney Uni and Redfern Station and the city, perhaps?!) and you’re happy to share with a creative, passionate young school teacher/writer and pay $300 a week plus bills then please do get in touch: elizestrydom(at)live.com.au

friends of mountains

000052690024000052630002000052630003000052630011000052630022000052640024000052650012000052650032000052650034000052650030000052650035000052690017000052690008000052670025000052670033

000052690023

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

suddenly, last summer

000058790029

“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.  

small town girl – south africa

000074300018
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!

F1050034

000074340012000074320028000025920008000095270034000029900029000063220001000074370007 

wildheart

F1070023-2
Poor, poor lovesick child

There’s still fire in your belly

And your heart is still wild

– ‘Little Whiskey’ by Angus and Julia Stone.

Their new self titled album is a dream. It was produced by Rick Rubin and almost didn’t happen. I’m so glad it did. Pretty sure it’ll become the soundtrack to this week’s New Zealand trip.

away

nz
Tomorrow I’m flying to my magical happy place: New Zealand. I’m tagging along with one of my best friends, Lyndal, who scored the trip as a thank you from the travel blog she writes for. I’ve been dreaming of getting back there since my first visit more than two years ago. We’re flying into Christchurch then driving down to Queenstown then…exploring, adventuring, day tripping…generally being wide eyed kids in a wonderous winterland, you know. There’s nothing I love more. I’m so very grateful for yet another trip away and the chance to run free with my bestie. What a life, huh? Meanwhile in Gaza, right? It’s strange to spend my work days reading and writing stories about death and destruction, abuse and adversity, power and politics then leaving for the day to go spend time with my friends eating out, skating, taking photos, visiting artisan markets or hanging at the beach. We’ve got it good, real good, and I’m thankful.