Amy Stein & Stacy Arezou Merfahr, Schoolchildren, New South Wales, 2010
US photographer Amy Stein says that when she first heard about Australia’s Tall Poppy Syndrome she just had to come here and see for herself. She did. With Stacy Arezou Merfahr she travelled around New South Wales photographing ordinary places and ordinary folk – the sort of folk who don’t fall under the title of “tall poppies”.
The Tall Poppy Syndrome cuts everyone down to the same height, preferably short. Anyone who visibly succeeds in money, achievement or fame is regarded as getting above themselves and needing to be brought down to the common level. It’s a cultural quirk unique to Australians and alien to Americans who “are taught to strive for success and celebrate those who distinguish themselves from the crowd.”
The Edmund Pearce exhibition makes it clear that this wry enterprise needs to be savoured in large prints on a wall. The smaller images on the web and in the nice accompanying book don’t convey the subtle humour, the deadpan comedy, the utter strangeness of this cross-cultural encounter. Click on the image above and you might see what I mean. The pictures of rural New South Wales are funny, very true, and they tell you something about yourself, if you’re an Australian. It’s not all good news.