They say you can take the girl out of the town, but you can’t take the town out of the girl – something that photographer Elize Strydom’s visual work captures beautifully. 

IMAGES: Elize Strydom

Location: Silverton (Broken Hill), NSW

Celebrating the unique wonder, freedom and lives of girls in rural communities across Australia and the world, Small Town Girl Project is a series of fascinating images that paint a vivid picture of life beyond the city.

Growing up in small towns herself, Elize Strydom always felt that she was destined for bigger things. Moving from Grafton in NSW, to the seaside town of Woolgoolga in her late teens, Elize would find herself looking out the window and dreaming of life in the big city. “I remember sitting in my bedroom when I was a teenager, looking out the window and thinking, ‘I’m missing out on life! There’s so much life out there and I’ve got to wait until it’s my turn to step out into this world that I know is out there.’ I was so dramatic,” she laughs, reminiscing as we chat about life in a small town. Having also spent my childhood and teenage years living in small towns, I asked Elize how she feels now that she’s living in Sydney, and whether she misses her hometown. “I am definitely very happy in the city,” she says, “but when I went back to Woolgoolga recently for three days, I was like ‘oh this is paradise!’ It’s always that ‘grass is greener’ thing. [Seeing both sides though] has certainly made me appreciate what I had growing up.”

Drawing on her experiences of growing up away from the big city, Elize began to wonder what life was like for other teens in rural towns, and gradually, the beginnings of her project ‘Small Town Girl’ began to form.

Tara feeds a deer that wandered into her yard in Winthrop, Washington 2013

“I’d been thinking about it in vague terms for a while…but I guess [the idea] initially formed when I was studying in New York for three months in 2011…,” she explained. “Being in such a massive city lead me to reflect on my life and my teenage years, and how foreign and far away it seemed from where I was in that moment.”

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