Left: Melbourne’s Russell Street in the 1950s. Right: The same location in 2013.

For the past two years, Melbourne, Australia has topped the list of the world’s most livable cities thanks to its eclectic street art, rich culture and roots as the birthplace of Australian film and football. The Kickstarter project Retake Melbourne aims to unite the city’s contemporary present with its rich past through a mobile “re-photography” app, which allows Melburnians to juxtapose vintage photos of Melbourne with modern photos of the same location. Together, photographers around Melbourne will undertake the city’s first comparative photography research project led by photographer Greg Neville and researcher James McArdle
The project was inspired by a State Library of Victoria archive of 5,000 fifty-year old negatives, color transparencies and slides, the work of immigrant Australian photographer Mark Strizic. In the 1960s, the elegant Gold Rush-era architecture was slowly being replaced by Modernist high-rise office buildings. Strizic’s photos featured objects–such as telephone poles and city streets–that highlighted Melbourne’s transformation from the architecture he knew and loved to “urban ugliness.”
The mobile app will make the intensive process of re-photography accessible to everyone, allowing the project to become a timeless collaboration between Strizic and Melbourne’s contemporary citizens and visitors. Anyone with the app can go to the exact locations of Strizic’s photos and use it to take their own images and compare the two. The app will locate each Strizic photograph on a Melbourne map, identify the angle Strizic used and superimpose Strizic’s image onto the screen while the new picture is taken. Neville and McArdle hope that re-photography will restore pride in the “lost” Melbourne and help the city uncover its forgotten past.
With less than 24 hours to go (the project’s funding period ends at noon on June 22), Retake Melbourne has already passed its funding goal. Neville and McArdle’s next task will be to develop the app, in hopes that, like Strizic’s collection, these new pictures of Melbourne will someday become part of the historical record.
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