Elize Strydom, Photographer
Joining us on the blog before she takes the stage and WOWs us at Make Nice next week, is Photographer and Radio Journalist / Newsreader Elize Strydom. Read on to find out about her travels and the relationships she builds with the girls she captures on camera for her ongoing project Small Town Girl.
What do you do?
I'm a photographer and radio journalist/newsreader. I observe and investigate the lives of others which (ideally) helps me understand myself and how to live.
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
Run your own race. Be inspired and encouraged by others and their work but don't get caught up in constant comparisons.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
1. Getting married and divorced before age 23.
2. Moving to Sydney after living in regional New South Wales for most of my life. The world has completely opened up to me and I've met the most remarkable people.
3. Starting Small Town Girl, my ongoing photography project documenting the everyday lives of teenage girls in small towns across Australia, the USA and South Africa. Four years ago when the project began, I had no idea that it would eventually rule my world and top my priority list. It has taken me on so many adventures and introduced me to some of the most incredible young women and their families.
What is your dream project?
Small Town Girl! Spending time with young women is so fascinating and fulfilling. I'm endlessly interested in their hopes, dreams, thoughts and opinions. I know there are many more teenage girls living in out of the way places who I'm yet to meet and learn from.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I'm currently working on my first photo book. It's called Love Is Strange and will be out in the world mid-June. I'm also heading back to South Africa to keep working on Small Town Girl. I plan to re-visit some of the girls I photographed last year. I like the idea of spending as much time as possible with my subjects - through the mundane and the magnificent - and building genuine relationships with them. I think that helps me capture honest and relatable moments. Oh and I'll be on the panel at Make Nice next week, too!
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
Pay rates is a big one! I never have any idea how much to charge! I recently had a client ask what my 'expenses' would be for a two week photography/writing job. But it's not about 'expenses' at all, it's about being fairly remunerated for the work you do. When clients ask for a quote I often worry that another photographer/writer has quoted a lesser figure and that I'll lose the job if I charge what I think I deserve. Sometimes other photographers have offered to do a job for free because they think it equals valuable exposure. How do you compete with someone who will work for free? I'd like to think that clients see and value good work and are willing to pay for it. Perhaps photographers should be more open about about stuff like this. Yeah, they should, we should all get together and settle on some general rates!
What are you listening to and/or reading that is inspiring or entertaining you?
I'm listening to James Blake's The Colour in Anything almost non stop. It's helped me ride out the latest mini-heartbreak. I'm delving into Elena Ferrante's work and just finished The Lost Daughter. I didn't want to end! That book was such a thought provoking escape and I wanted to live in its world a little longer. I'm currently re-reading Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey and it has really informed the themes in the photo book I'm making.
How can we find out more about your work?
Or we could meet for coffee and have a chin wag. Let's hang out!
If you could choose to hear any female contemporary present at Make Nice, who would it be and why?
Oh gosh, so many! If I had to pick just one it would be Alexia Webster. She's a South African photo journalist I came across on Instagram (@alexiawebster). She does such important, interesting and beautiful work, yet she's so humble and goes about her job like it ain't no thang. I met up with her in Cape Town last year and she was so friendly and unpretentious and willing to share her story and answer my silly little questions.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
Okay, this is supremely cliched but...follow your heart. For the longest time - from childhood until my late 20s - I did what made others happy, what was expected, what was 'right'. I wanted to stay on the beaten track and was extremely afraid of rocking the boat - at work, in relationships, creatively. Around the time I turned 30 I started to relax a little and stopped feeling like I needed to be all things to all people. I thought hard about what I actually did and didn't want to do, who I did and didn't want to be and decided to aim to live truthfully even if it disappointed someone or let someone down or made someone annoyed. I'm still working on it and at the same time I still want to be a generous, selfless person who is willing to compromise, but not in a disingenuous way. I don't want to act out of obligation or fear.
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
I sure do! Over the last five years I've become friends with a whole bunch of talented, open and engaged ladies - young and old - who are committed to creativity and are going after what they want with such conviction and passion. From musicians like Merryn Jeann (@merryn_jeann), photographers like Rachel Kara (@rachelkara1) and Anne Moffatt (@annemoff) to painters like Holly Greenwood (@holly_gumleaf), illustrators like Edith Barrett (@edithrewa) and sewers/designers like Anna Mould (@annalouisemould). Before I moved to Sydney I was based in Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast and had a very small creative network. Living in the city and being active on social media has made a world of difference. I've now found my people!