Peppered across Australia are hundreds of giant, fiberglass sculptures: “big” versions of random objects, designed to attract tourists to otherwise unattractive towns. The famous ones are The Big Pineapple and The Big Banana, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the more niche entries include The Big Deck Chair, The Big Lobster, The Big Purse, the Big Axe, The Big Galah, The Big Bull, The Big Kangaroo—you get the idea.
Unsurprisingly, there are also a number of Facebook pages that have set out to chronicle Australia’s assortment of big things. One of them, Big Things of Australia, boasts an improbably dedicated fanbase: its members frequently consulting one another for directions to the various giant objects around the country. And one of that page’s most prolific big things aficionados is Shez Tedford.
Originally from New Zealand, Shez has travelled extensively around Australia, visiting some 250 big things over the past five years. We spoke to her over the phone about her long-term mission to see them all, and what she’s learning in the process.
VICE: Hey Shez, do you remember the first big thing you ever visited?
Shez Tedford: Of course! The very first one was a big lobster named Larry, and I thought he was pretty cool. I took some photos, which I forgot about, then found a few years later. This was in 2016 and I thought to myself “I know there’s a lot of big things in Australia; I hear people talk about them all the time”. So I got on the internet and downloaded the Wikipedia big things list, which gave me a start. From then on, if we travelled anywhere, I’d take out my list to see if there was a big thing in the area. I wasn’t obsessed, but it became a hobby. From there, everywhere we went, I started looking for big things.
So you’ve been visiting big things for about five years?
Yeah—I don’t know how many I’ve photographed, probably 250. Some people think I’m crazy, but I just love photographing specific things. I love photographing big things, lighthouses, and I love photographing country huts. Since we’ve been travelling over the last six months, I’ve seen another 40 or 50 big things, and there seems to be more popping up all the time.
Tell us about your favourite big thing, and what made it so special.
Larry is the one that started it all. He’s massive and he’s very colourful. He was my first, and is still my favourite. I mean, there are lots of really fabulous works of art out there, as far as big things go, but to create Larry—he’s huge! He’s massive! Absolutely massive!
What’s your least favourite big thing?
The big crocodiles because there are so many of them. I like things that are unique, that are just a one-off, but there’s probably half a dozen big crocs spread around Australia. I don’t like things that are like “there’s one in this state, there’s one in that state.” Same with the big watermelon: I think there’s probably two big watermelons.
What would you say to someone who thinks big things are kind of lame?
I would say they’re something completely different, and the work that goes into some of these structures is amazing. And actually, I think a lot of Australians are quite obsessed with these big things now; they seem to have become part of our culture. So I’d tell any critics to go out there and start looking for them. Start with a basic list, join the Facebook pages, and you might be surprised with what you find. There’s some really cool things out there.
What have you learned about Australia’s national character while visiting big things?
For people who have come to Australia and seen something like The Big Kangaroo or The Big Galah, they’re symbols of Australia; they’re part of Australian culture. People from overseas will ask something like “what is that bird?” and they’ll find out that it’s a Galah, which is a part of Australia’s bird life.
What do you find so rewarding about seeking these things out?
Finding them, obviously. To get to these places you might be going out through beautiful countryside, in which case you’ll find other things of interest in your journey. It’s just a nice day out. My husband and I are on our own, just cruising through a town or through the countryside, and we’re intent on finding big things. Sometimes it takes a while.
What big things are next on your list?
There’s a massive periodic table up at Perth, which I think is the only one in Australia—I really want to see that one. There’s also The Big Camera which I think is also in Perth, and obviously I want to see that because of my love for photography. I really want to photograph a camera.
Interview by Gabriela Caeli Sumampow. Follow her on Instagram