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New Art Photography: Australia’s “Tall Poppy Syndrome”

By Jon Feinstein

January 10, 2013

In March, 2010 Amy Stein and Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, two American born photographers, traveled throughout Australia photographing the people, landscape, ephemera, and wildlife to collaboratively hunt for evidence of “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” a social phenomenon predominant in Australia that rejects and tears down individuals who “stand out” from the crowd.

As Americans who felt that it was part of their fabric to stand out, compete, and grow to their own abilities, Amy and Stacy were fascinated with this idea. They saw Tall Poppy not necessarily as a “problem” but a challenge to explore photographically as outsiders. In place of heavy-handed metaphors of stalks being cut down to size, or propagandistic images of “brainwashed” crowds, the work is softer, more imaginative exploration of a landscape somewhat alien to Amy and Stacy’s cultural upbringing.

Amy and Stacy played with this idea, injecting it into their collaborative practice by completely removing individual authorship. While they had individual control over their shutters, once each roll was shot, it became a collective work. They described wanting to “see what would happen when individual status is removed from a photographic project.” Tall Poppy Syndrome was published by Decode Books in October 2012, and is on view until February 16th at Clamp Art, NYC, with an artist’s reception on Thursday, January 17th.

Jon Feinstein is a curator, photographer, the Co-Founder of Humble Arts Foundation, and the manager of Marketing and Partnerships at Shutterstock Images. Jon has curated numerous exhibitions including “31 Women in Art Photography”, at Hasted Kraeutler, “Small Prints” at Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Festival, and “Group Show: Taschen” at Taschen Books NYC. His projects have been covered in The Village Voice, The New York Observer, Daily Candy, PDN, The Daily Beast, Modern Painters Online and Time Magazine Online. He has also served as a juror for the New York Photo Awards and has been a guest critic for numerous portfolio reviews including Powerhouse Books, ICP, PDN’s PhotoPlus, ASMP and Review Santa Fe.

Amy SteinAustrailiaClamp ArtStacy Arezou MehrfarTall Poppy Syndrome

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