olive and oak

elize strydom's photo journal

Category: photography

this looks like the place


It was hot, so hot, dry and dusty. It was the kind of dust that gets caught in the back of your throat, becomes grit between your teeth. The streets were quiet, still, empty. But I didn’t care. I’d just arrived in the US. I caught a Greyhound Bus from LA, my nose glued to the window all the way out to Palm Springs. The sunrise pulled back the night and I was up, riding a bike around, exploring. I craned my neck to look up up up at the towering mountains hemming me in. It reminded me of when I was a little girl and went to the city for the first time: I couldn’t believe how tall the skyscrapers were. I pedalled through the streets in the heat of the day intent on finding a health food store to buy a juice and nuts and chocolate covered goji berries. A man working there asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Palm Springs. I told him and he called me an adventurous little thing. I was secretly pleased. I rode back to the hotel and said hello to no one; the searing streets abandoned. 


There’s a person in one of these photos – can you spot him?

All photos developed and scanned at Richard Photo Lab in Hollywood, CA



land of the bloody unknown


Back in late November 2013, Dan and I got in the car and drove over 13 hours west to a town called Broken Hill. I spent a week there in December 2012 shooting the Small Town Girl project (some photos from that trip here and here) and this time I was there to hang the photos for my exhibition at the Regional Gallery. Rural Australia fascinates and frightens me: the breathtaking land of the bloody unknown where a quiet and complex melancholia pervades.


^^ Dan preparing our dinner on the bonnet of an old car.


^^ Setting up at the gallery. It was such a thrill! The staff were super professional and treated me like a real artist which felt a little funny. Lovely Dan kept reassuring me that my work deserved to be there just as much as the work of artists I consider to be ‘real’. Oh, Dan 🙂

an ending (until next time)


A few days ago I received the last lot of Small Town Girl USA film scans from Richard Photo Lab. I felt a mixture of relief and accomplishment plus a little sadness, too. It’s complete – hooray! It’s over* – boo! As I was scrolling through the images this shot of Jenn from New Albany, Ohio, stopped me in my tracks. You see, Jenn is a competent and confident young woman. She’s whip smart, creative, gorgeous, talented and driven. She’s 12 years my junior yet it was like we were the exact same age – at times I even felt like the teenager! But in this photo I’m reminded that she is so very young with a lifetime of adventure, love, growth and learning ahead of her. I’m not implying that she’s innocent and naive, but that she was a child just a few short years ago and it’s easy to forget that. Dear little Jenn, beautiful inside and out.

* The STG USA project isn’t technically over. I plan to go back to the States again next year to photograph/live with four more girls. I’m hoping to find an ethnically diverse group of teenagers; perhaps an African American girl and a Native American girl. Meanwhile, I’m aiming to exhibit the STG USA story so far in Sydney next February or March. I’ll keep you posted…

mr. popular


Whenever I take Yashi out to play, people stop us in the street and ask, ‘Does it work?’ ‘How old is it?’ ‘Can you still buy film for that?’ To which I answer, ‘Yes, very well’ ‘About 50’ and ‘Of course! It’s expensive but worth every cent’. I’ve been trying out a bunch of different cameras lately but I keep coming back to this one. It’s such fun to use and produces beautiful images. Thank you, little Yashi.

1. lacey and matt 2. matt and lee


small town girl


I grew up in a small town cut through the middle by a wide river, its two sides joined by a bendy bridge. I didn’t think the life I lived was anything special; I just did my thing and that was that. It’s only now with a bit of hindsight that I realise how unique those years on the cusp really were. Alive with possibility and yearning and so completely raw.

In 2012 I set out on a photographic journey of remembering and discovery. What’s it like to grow big in a small town? I was asking that question of myself as well as my four subjects; Jannah in Broken Hill, Savannah in Parkes, Emily in Grafton and Merryn in Byron Bay. I wanted my memories of adolescence both validated and challenged.

In June this year a selection of the images will be exhibited as part of the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney. And after entering them in the Qantas Spirit of Youth Award for photography I was named runner up.

Now, Small Town Girl is leaving home. On June 13 I will fly to the US of A and spend two months there, photographing the lives of teenage girls in Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi and Texas. The thing is, I haven’t found my girls yet. Can you help?

I’m looking for a girl (aged between 13-19) who lives in a town with a population of 20, 000 or less in each of the states listed above. I’ll live with her and her family/flatmates for a week and follow her around, taking fly-on-the-wall style photos.

If you’re interested or if you know someone who knows someone who knows a teenage girl who fits the bill, then please comment here or email me for more details: elizestrydom@live.com.au Feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and any of your other networks. Many thanks!


guerilla gallery



A few months back I was told about a new photography exhibition and the other day I stumbled across it. But this wasn’t your average gallery show. This was a collection of 40 works by six Sydney photographers installed along an ugly street in the CBD without permission from the council. The story goes that they donned hi-vis vests (not unlike those worn by council workers) and placed their works between the gaps in the brickwork. I’d say city authorities saw what was going on but each one probably assumed that his or her superior had given the artists permission to set up this makeshift gallery. And so they got away with it…as they should have. Isn’t that neat?

As one of the photographers – Dean Sewell – says, ‘We can’t wait ’round to be delivered these opportunities, we need to make these opportunities for ourselves.’

Read more here and check out the incredible work of George Voulgaropoulos here.

in print



Earlier this year a bunch of photos taken by Justin Ealand (my dear friend and mentor) and I were published in ‘The Australian Wedding Book’. There’s something really special about seeing your images in print and imagining someone turning the pages of a book and stopping to appreciate a photo you’ve made. It’s pretty odd though, because as well as having my own images in the book there are also a few OF me as Justin shot my best friend Ali’s wedding and I was in the bridal party.

behind the scenes


Working on a fun (and soon-to-be-revealed) project for Etsy

in between again


Moments in between moments while shooting a project in Grafton and Parkes.

Do you get the Bon Iver reference? I think it’s hilarious.

yaya superstar



This is Yaya. A warm, beautiful and quirky girl I met two years ago at a music festival. We only ever see each other in the pit when we’re shooting our favourite bands but she always greets me with that gorgeous smile and a huge hug. Bless.