Lockdown-weary lawyer captures Melbourne’s marvellous bygone era in new book

 By Brendan Rees

A lawyer who began a “little project” of posting historical photos of Melbourne on social media in a bid to beat pandemic blues, never imagined he would publish a book.

Chris Macheras said he spent hours during last year’s lockdown collating photos of Melbourne’s enchanting past which he then shared on his Old Vintage Melbourne Instagram account.

“I just sort of found these photos online in high-res and I thought you know what, this would be a really cool idea on Instagram,” he said after sourcing photos on websites such as the State Library of Victoria, the National Archives of Australia, and the Public Records Office Victoria.

“I guess I was just bored, I wasn’t commuting every day to work to the city and back, so I had a few extra hours up my sleeve.”

Mr Macheras, who is also a hobby-artist and has always had a “fascination with buildings and cities”, said he was blown away by how popular the Instagram account became.

The page – which was launched in June 2020 and shows hundreds of photos from an old Foys department store van in Flinders Lane in 1948 to crowds of people walking down Bourke St in 1900 – has now attracted nearly 80,000 followers.  

“It was just sort of something I was interested in and it blew up,” Mr Macheras said, who has now showcased his work in a new book titled Old Vintage Melbourne – a concept he initially shrugged off as “no chance no one’s interested”.

“It was just a little project that I started because just out of interest, there was no real intention behind it for it to become what it’s become,” he said, but added he was spurred on by his followers to publish his work in print. 

He said the whole experience was a great outlet to escape the monotony of last year’s lockdown, which he also used to do some architectural sketching of Melbourne.  

The book, which went on sale on October 18, reminisces Melbourne’s important heritage and its development over the years.

One of Mr Macheras’ favourite photos depicts Swanston St in 1858 which he said was “considered to be the first ever photo of Melbourne”.  

“This is really cool because where there should be cabs there’s just all horses and carriage and you’ve got the building on the right that was demolished and it’s where our Town Hall now sits.”

Another standout included a photo of a packed Flinders St Station ballroom when it opened in 1910.

“You look at that photo and it looks so new, you can almost smell the fresh paint, and now it’s fallen into real disrepair,” Mr Macheras said.

His book also contains rare photos of people smiling, at a time when it was customary to have stoic, dignified expressions •

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