Schoolchildren, Weethalle

“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,” criticized, resented, or ridiculed because their talents or achievements distinguish them from their peers.

In 2010, American photographers Amy Stein and Stacy Arezou Mehrfar embarked on a month-long road trip throughout New South Wales—Australia’s most populous state. They were interested in investigating “Tall Poppy Syndrome.” Is the syndrome even real? Can it be documented or observed? 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 playing at the beach to grandmothers meeting at their social clubs—all the while learning about the relationship between the group and the individual within Australian society. The resulting photographs in “Tall Poppy Syndrome” present their findings.

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