20 October 2022

Review: Old Vintage Melbourne 1960-1990 by Chris Macheras

Old Vintage Melbourne 1960-1990 by Chris Macheras book cover

* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

Old Vintage Melbourne 1960-1990 by Chris Macheras is the sequel to Old Vintage Melbourne and is for all those who enjoy studying urban photographs of this wonderful capital city. Melbourne was voted the world's most liveable city for 7 years in a row from 2011 and I'm proud to call the city home.

While Old Vintage Melbourne included photographs taken between the mid 1880s and the mid 1990s, this collection - as the title suggests - focuses on the three decades between 1960 - 1990 which makes for a well thought out sequel. Being a child of the 1970s, seeing this collection of colour photographs taken before my birth, at the time of my birth and into my own living memory was quite something and met a level of curiosity that wasn't satisfied in the first book.

I enjoyed the snippets of history that were unknown to me prior to reading this book, like the fact that a 12yo boy vanished in 1982 when he was playing in the reflecting pool and fountain in the City Square; now the Metro tunnel work site on the corner of Swanston Street and Collins Street. The temperature on that day was in the 40s and the water would have been tempting, however the boy was sucked into the circulation system of the fountain and disappeared from view. Despite frantic and heroic efforts from his friend, he was presumed drowned until he was miraculously found alive, 1.5 hours later! Apparently he found an air pocket in the main cavern and was rescued when the water was pumped out by the fire brigade. Wow, how terrifying for him and his parents! If you want to read about this tale of survival and learn more about the incredible bravery of the boy's friend, you can read the entire story here for free.

All of that said, I had to deduct a star in my rating due to the editing of this collection. The author's name is misspelled in one of the photo credits (page 33) and on page 106, the content for two photographs have been reversed, presumably due to a layout change at some point in the process. The content accompanying the photographs is critical to the overall enjoyment of the collection and in this case, the book would have benefitted from a tighter editing process.

On a more positive note, Macheras has touchingly included a photograph of his grandparents in this collection, which was a lovely personal touch and an indulgence the reader will surely allow.

Reading Old Vintage Melbourne 1960-1990 by Chris Macheras made me nostalgic about the past, but I find it fascinating that I don't feel the same way looking around at today's streetscapes. I always notice when a building disappears or a storefront changes, but I don't feel their loss in the same way as businesses which closed decades ago. Why is that?

In studying the images in this collection, signage is just as interesting as the architecture and equally as compelling as the subjects who happen to have been present at the precise moment the photo was taken. I enjoyed imagining myself in those settings (how fun would it be to browse the aisles at Coles New World in the 1970s) and wondering about the lives of those captured unawares. Where are they now?

I know we're living in changeable times, and when I walk around the CBD now, I'm reminded that the Metro tunnel is going to significantly change the city landscape and new train stations are being constructed as we speak. It's clear that there's so much more greenery in this collection than in the past, and it doesn't seem to be related to the time it takes to grow a tree. It seems to me that as Australian culture has shifted and evolved over time, urban planners, developers and councils have embraced the advantages of greenery in the city to cool the towers of concrete and glass on every block as well as improve the aesthetics and air quality of the urban landscape. This continues even now with council grants encouraging green walls, rooftop and community gardens and rooftop beehives.

My favourite images in this collection were by far the aerial shots of Southbank and South Melbourne, and I could look at these for hours comparing what I can see in the images to what I know of the landscape as it is right now. The Then/Now comparisons are wonderful for that purpose and the author has included several throughout the collection.

I can't help but wonder - and hope - that Chris Macheras' love for Melbourne continues, his Instagram account continues to thrive (his motivation for the books) and that he might soon start planning another sequel that could take us closer to the present date. Retro Melbourne would make a terrific title, don't you think?

Highly recommended!

My Rating:

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  1. You should browse NSFA Films on YouTube Tracey, they have these short archival films of everyday life in Australian cities & towns during the 1960’s to 1970’s for each state that are fascinating . Victoria is here https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYjU0Xph-Gj42hfvfKhmtQLa7U7MvpXUt

    1. Wow, these are great, thanks so much Shelleyrae I just watched one then :-)

  2. You should browse NSFA Films on YouTube Tracey, they have these short archival films of everyday life in Australian cities & towns during the 1960’s to 1970’s for each state that are fascinating .

  3. Nice article! Thanks for sharing this post with us. I really enjoyed reading this post and very helpful for me.


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