Photographs illustrating the distinctly Australian syndrome of the “tall poppy” are the theme of an upcoming exhibition by Amy Stein & Stacy Arezou Mehrfar.
Two US photographers who have created a series of images illustrating the so-called Australian “tall poppy” syndrome, claimed to exist in Australian society, are staging an exhibition of their work in Melbourne from late November. An Australian launch of the book ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ will take place concurrently with the exhibition.
In 2010 photographers Amy Stein and Stacy Arezou Mehrfar took off on a month-long road trip throughout New South Wales with the prime aim of investigating “tall poppy syndrome.” The resulting photographs in “Tall Poppy Syndrome” present their findings.
In their exhibition notes, the artists write, “’Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is a term used to describe a social phenomenon in Australia in which successful people (the ‘tall poppies’) get ‘cut down to size’, criticised, resented, or ridiculed because their talents or achievements distinguish them from their peers.”
The Americans found this syndrome perplexing, and suggest it wasn’t something that existed in the US culture. They wondered whether this phenomenon could be captured photographically so they decided to find out via a road trip. Stein and Mehrfar set out to explore quintessential Australian life and find what evidence they could of the existence of this phenomenon. They spent their days meeting and photographing everyday Australians - from schoolchildren in their plaid uniforms, to young surfers at the beach, to country women meeting at their social clubs - all the while learning about the relationship between the group and the individual within Australian society.
Amy Stein lives in Los Angeles where she explores the themes of man’s evolving isolation from community, culture, and the environment. Her photographs have been the subject of many US national and international exhibitions. Stacy Arezou Mehrfar lives in Sydney and she’s a first-generation American artist and lecturer currently residing in Sydney. Predominately working on long-term projects which explore cultural identity, her images have been exhibited in the United States, Australia, Poland, and Germany.
She’s received distinctions from the Moran Arts Foundation, Perth Centre for Photography, Photography.Book. Now, the Camera Club of New York, the Centre for Photography at Woodstock, among others. Mehrfar’s images are held in several public and private collections worldwide.
The exhibition Tall Poppy Syndrome is on at the Edmund Pearce Gallery, 37 Swanston Street (cnr Flinders Lane), Melbourne, ph: (03) 9023 577 from November 27 to December 21. For more details see www.edmundpearce.com.au
To pursue the theme of the so-called 'tall poppy' the photographers searched NSW for images which illustrated it throughout schools and football teams, amongst other sources.