Wollongong’s history has come back to life in a visually vibrant display via the relentless efforts of an online group: Lost Wollongong. The Facebook group has a cumulative 15,000+ images, with a member base to match, perpetuating a steady flow of nostalgia since May 2014.
An impressive feat considering the scale and engagement it has maintained with members. Administrator David Bottin attributes the popularity of Lost Wollongong to a general fondness for looking back. “I think it’s because people love reminiscing,” said Bottin in a chat on Facebook.
The most popular images, says Bottin, are those from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Robert Huisman, a local photographer, recently put together a series of these images in a then and now format. The gallery, which can be enjoyed on Huisman.com.au, includes an interactive slider that juxtaposes the differing facades, splicing from a past epoch to now.
The series raises a remiscent respect for Wollongong’s dynamic and ever-changing landscape. Perhaps the most interesting facet of this whole phenomena is the digital environment it is taking place in, an oxymoronic appreciation of old stuff in the newest place there is: the internet. We asked Robert a few questions about his project and why he thinks people love looking back.
H: What inspired you to do this photo series?
RH: I have always liked old buildings, and when I look at them, I imagine what life was like when the building was first constructed and how that building was used. I often check out places that are abandoned, or just have a lot of history. A few years ago I came across an image online, in one of the newspapers I think, that showed a “then and now” photo with a slider that you were able to move to show either. But it was a general photo of a particular Sydney street, and they were taken from completely different sides of the street, so nothing really lined up. When I came across some wonderful old photos at Lost Wollongong, I came up with the idea to do a slider, but to try to line up the angles as best I could, with at least one reference point still in existence today.
H: Why do you think there is such a large interest in these old photographs of Wollongong?
RH: I think people in general are interested in where they came from, and how things have changed over the years. You don’t always remember, but when you see an old photo of somewhere where you’ve grown up, you say: “That’s right, I remember such and such’s shop used to be here……”, you know what I mean? I think most people are nostalgic anyway, maybe more so as you get older! You only have to look at the 15000 members of Lost Wollongong to see that the interest in Wollongong’s past is huge, and the site’s admin there are doing a great job keeping Wollongong’s history alive. Occasionally I come across some fantastic comments on some of these old photos posted, and you get things like: “….I remember coming down Bulli pass on a horse and buggy”, or “….Mr Dion let me ride on his bus for free, because I had no money”. It makes you realise people want to remember, and by sharing, you feel like you belong to a welcoming and vibrant community, the Wollongong community.
H: Do you remember the locations in the original photos? How do you feel about their change?
RH: I remember all the locations where I have taken the Wollongong Slider photos, and admittedly, some are not that long ago. I only arrived in 1981 as a fresh-faced 15 year old from The Netherlands, but in that time Wollongong has grown lots, and grown up lots as well, becoming much less reliant on traditional manufacturing, and developing a broader set of industries around the education sector, R&D, and tourism. Wollongong has become more metropolitan. There is no shortage of great cafes and eateries that have sprung up in the last few years. Certainly, at night time, I think the CBD is a much more vibrant place to be now than it has been in previous years.
To view more of Robert’s work, go to Huisman.com.au
To view some more of Lost Wollongong’s historic images, visit their Facebook page.
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