Then and now project

When the Northern Territory (NT) News photograph editor Brad Fleet approached the Northern Territory Archives Service (NTAS) to source photographs for their Centenary project “Then and Now: Celebrating the Northern Territory’s 1-in-a-100-year souvenir” newspaper lift-out, the NTAS saw it as an opportunity to make photographs from our collections available to the Northern Territory Community.

As a way of marking 100 years since the NT moved from the control of the South Australian Government to the control of the Commonwealth Government in 1911, the NT News wanted to show images of locations across Darwin and the NT at various times in history, comparing them to the modern scene, photographed by Brad Fleet.

It has been a challenging and interesting project for the NTAS and the NT News.

The city of Darwin itself has undergone many transformations since its earliest days, and very little remains of the 'then', to be seen 'now'. 

From the beginning of the project Brad was anxious to have the correct location, knowing that readers would be prompt to spot any inaccuracies. 

He told the NTAS that often there were obstacles at the site of shooting and in the end the only good time for photographing sites was early Sunday morning. Also for him difficulties came from the complete change in infrastructure especially around Parliament House.

This project has provided the NTAS with the opportunity to explore some of their photographic collections in greater depth, using archives, published history books and oral histories held by NTAS to work out the precise vantage point of each image so that the NT News photographer could shoot an image of the same location as it is today, providing the comparison.

This feature appeared in the NT News each weekday from early July to early August 2011, amounting to 100 pages.

The baobab tree

Baobab tree at school, Darwin (the old Darwin Primary School in Cavenagh  Street, on the site of the Post Office car park), 1957
Baobab tree at school, Darwin (the old Darwin Primary School in Cavenagh Street,
on the site of the Post Office car park), 1957 

Northern Territory Archives Service, Laidlaw, William Clarke, NTRS 317,
Personal photographs of the Northern Territory, and booklets from school curriculum,
Darwin Primary School, circa1957, item 9

This is the baobab tree as captured today by Brad Fleet.
This is the baobab tree as captured today
Photographer Brad Fleet, Picture Editor, NT News

The big baobab tree still stands in this location some 54 years after the image in William Clarke Laidlaw collection was captured, however instead of being in the middle of a school yard it is now in the centre of the Darwin General Post Office car park on Cavenagh Street. 

Our challenge was to work out where the image was taken from within that space, so that Brad from the NT News could re-photograph the tree from the same angle.

With the assistance of our friends at the Department of Lands and Planning Land Tenure Research Group, documentation from the William Clarke Laidlaw collection and hints from other photographic collections showing the old Primary School through history, we were able to pinpoint the precise location within the car park from where the image was taken.

Smith Street

View from the water tower located behind the Vic Hotel looking beyond Smith  Street, circa 1947
View from the water tower located behind the Vic Hotel looking beyond Smith
Street, circa 1947
Northern Territory Archives Service, Grant, Archibald Wesley (Rev), NTRS 306, 
Photographs and papers relating to service with Australian Inland Mission in the
Northern Territory and the publication of ‘Skipper Partrige’, circa 1873 to 1984,
no item number.

Photograph taken from the water tower in 2011, Photographer Brad Fleet
Photograph taken from the water tower in 2011
Photographer Brad Fleet, Picture Editor, NT News

Vestey's Beach

Fannie Bay and Vestey’s, circa 1924-1932
Fannie Bay and Vestey’s, circa 1924-1932
Northern Territory Archives Service, Wilson, Charles, NTRS 3335,
Reference digitised copy of images relating to the Top end, circa 1924-1932, item 31

Vestey’s Beach Aquatic Festival, circa 1962-1972
Vestey’s Beach Aquatic Festival, circa 1962-1972
Northern Territory Archives Service, Graham, Heather, NTRS 3406, Reference copy
of digitised images relating to health services in the Top End, circa 1964 to 1972,
item 62

Vestey's Beach photographed in 2011 by Brad Fleed
Vestey's Beach photographed in 2011
Photographer Brad Fleed, Picture Editor, NT News

Last updated: 18 April 2016