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Dee Why Historical Photo, Series 1

In a modern, fast-paced, internet-focused age the world around us has become a fleeting folly. However, for one young man, the history of Sydney has never been more important to focus on & highlight to the wider community. In order to do this Nathan Mete created the @RetroSydney_ Instagram page to showcase the history & beauty that many Sydneysiders have forgotten.

By Jamie Apps

“As a kid myself in the 90's, Sydney is just such a different place now which is truly fascinating - it became a great obsession almost, seeing the face of our city change over time (sometimes good & sometimes in a not so good way) but it makes up the story of where we are today & there's so many fascinating people & stories that have contributed to the history of Sydney.”

Although Nathan didn’t have a photography background himself when he started @RetroSydney_ in August 2020 he has always been able to appreciate the skill & power of the art form. “The one thing I love about most of the photographs that I post is the level of detail & the story that one photo can capture,” explained Nathan. “It's a real art to capture a moment & there are so many complex layers to a photograph.”

Since launching the page Nathan has grown his following to 101k in just 2 years. Many of the photographs Nathan posts on @RetroSydney_ are sourced from public archives, but the pictures which are “really special” to him come from public submissions.

In terms of what makes for a great image to post on the page, Nathan says it comes down to “a sense of familiarity of a place & the contrast of it now is what's really amazing.” Nathan also notes that many of the images are “candid” in nature & thus “ truly are a snapshot in time” which shows just how much the way we live has changed.

It’s not just the images that make @RetroSydney_ special though. As Nathan told us excitedly “the stories behind the photographs” can be magical. One set of photographs, in particular, that stands out in Nathan’s mind in this regard were submissions by a follower of the page.

“One of my followers, Nick, sent me a collection of gorgeous images that his late father took in the early 1960's on his Leica camera & you have to remember this was at a time before Autofocus was a thing, so everything was done manually - the clarity of them is amazing & I just love the moments that they've captured,” Nathan beamed. “One day I was shopping & bumped into Nick & his mum Di & it was a surreal moment. It was amazing hearing how Di said it was like the photographs were keeping her late husband & his memory alive - so it's special when you hear stories of how it affects people in amazing ways.”

It’s this connection with the images & the “nostalgic” feeling for a Sydney of old that Nathan feels is what has made @RetroSydney_ such a hit on Instagram. “With my posts, I try to immerse people in the journey back, mainly through the captions describing the time, sometimes it's the contents of the photograph - usually the cars or the place - & this adds another layer to the photograph or video giving it more context - & usually I'll couple that with a song of the era in a story post.”


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