Rebecca tries to catch a crab in the creek at Nieu-Bethesda, Eastern Cape
Documentary photographer and ABC journalist, Elize Strydom’s ongoing photography project ‘Small Town Girl’ documents the lives of teenage girls from small towns around the world. Shot in Australia (where she grew up), South Africa (where she was supposed to grow up), and the USA (where she wanted to grow up), the lives of these teenage girls are captured in an intimate and poetic way. “It occurred to me that it really isn’t about the photos at all. It’s about relationships and connection. The camera is the ‘key’ that gives me access to the girls’ lives – it’s my reason for being there – but the experiences we share, the things we learn from each other and the reciprocal understanding we gain is the real reason and purpose. The photos are just evidence, you know?”, says Elize on her blog.
Having met her dad for the first time 12 years ago in South Africa, the Sydney-based photographer’s decision to bring ‘Small Town Girl’ to the country was a personal one. She stayed in SA for two and a half months where she lived with and photographed six girls all over the country. Spending time with the diverse bunch of girls, Elize got many glimpses of the life she might have had in SA had she grown up in the country. “South Africa is fascinating and wild. It’s such a young nation and so alive with possibility and promise. There’s an undeniable energy and buzz everywhere you go. It felt like the future was being negotiated and re-negotiated before my eyes. I can’t wait to go back and meet more small town girls”, says Elize.
The project was inspired by the photographer’s realisation of the extraordinary years between childhood and adulthood: having a home surrounded with space and silence, a mind awake with exciting possibilities and raw emotions, instead of being a grown-up with a demanding job and weighty responsibilities. For Elize, the photographs in ‘Small Town Girl’ are Elize’s memories of her adolescence, which are validated and challenged as she walks beside these teenage girls.