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‘Our lucky charm’: The stories behind Flinders Street's (not so) hidden gem

Updated: May 8




Near the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth Street lies one of Melbourne’s oldest photo booths. Former owner, Alan Alder, opened the booth in 1961 alongside 16 others across Melbourne, but now this is the only one remaining. Plastered with old prints, it has become a gallery of Melbourne's unique demographics and history. Beloved by many and considered a 'hidden gem', it has established its place in Melbourne and has become a permanent and essential part of Melbourne’s rich history and culture. Many Melbourne residents and tourists have sat in the little seat of the photo booth and captured precious memories. Here are some of their stories;



Jess and her Mother.




“These photos were taken back in 2022 when I was 35. My mum and I are 30 years apart and are the only single ones in our family. She mentioned she needed help buying a ticket to a theatre show called “A Christmas Carol” and mentioned she was going alone. I’m not a big fan of theatre, but I surprised her with two tickets - one for me and one for her.


We made a day of it, went for lunch, and when I dropped her back at Flinders Street Station, we got these pics taken. She was over the moon. Since then, we’ve been overseas together twice and had plenty of days out. Still the singletons of the family, we’ve definitely gotten much closer since these pictures were taken.”


Haley and Camilo.



“This is my partner Camilo and I, a little tipsy, on my 30th birthday, on our way to see Fred again. We were so happy because we had been waiting for him to come to Melbourne for so long, and he just happened to be here for my birthday.”


For only $8, get a strip of three black-and-white pictures in minutes. The pandemic has driven prices up from $5 due to the scarcity of developing fluid and a sharp increase in printing paper costs, now at $700 per roll, up from $100. The film also takes longer to print, and photos take an average of 4.5 minutes to develop due to the machine's age. Regardless, this does not deter locals and tourists alike from lining up to get their photo taken.


Mi and Freddie.




“He’s from England and I’m from rural Victoria. We both moved to Melbourne (very apprehensively) around the same time. Despite all our feelings about packing our lives up for a new city, we met each other. This Melbourne Photo Booth strip is like our lucky charm. What are the chances that from halfway around the world we would meet in this city?”



Hugo and Will.




“Well, I met Will on Snapchat (so romantic), but before I started talking to him, I had lots of little hook-ups with guys but didn’t feel a real connection with any of them. However, the day I met up with Will for the first time, I just knew instantly. We had a cute little day and went to the NGV. I remember he bought a Mamma Mia vinyl. I was very nervous about potentially being in my first queer relationship at such a young age, but I felt this little glow in Will that I had never felt before, and I knew he was the one.”



Brimming with lovers, friends, and memories of drunken nights out, the photo booth has cemented its place in many people's hearts, with rich and unique stories spanning generations. At 91, Alder decided it was time to pass on the ownership of the Flinders Street Booth to the couple Jessie Norman and Chris Sutherland, who bypassed the booth in 2018 on their first date. They currently operate and maintain the photo booth. Continuing its legacy, the booth not only captures moments but also serves as a living archive of Melbourne's vibrant history.


Flyn and Kyland.



“When Kyland and I were dating, many of our dates included exploring the city, taking photos, and indulging in lots of yummy food. The photo booth was always a spot we would visit.


When Covid hit, we weren’t able to go into the city as often, but we got engaged and were planning our wedding during lockdowns. We decided to get married in the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne CBD, with our reception at a nearby rooftop bar. Once we decided on our wedding location, we started to plan what our day would look like, and my first thought was the photo booth - we had to go to the photo booth. I remember packing my bag in the morning, making sure I had my £6 in coins.


After our ceremony, we walked around the gardens and the city, taking our wedding photos and slowly making our way to the booth. We eventually got there, took our photos, and continued to have the best day of our lives. The photo now sits framed in our home. We look at it every day and are reminded of our perfect day. It’s something I cherish very much.”


Melbourne's oldest photo booth stands as a testament to the enduring charm of simplicity and nostalgia. Since 1961, it has captured the essence of the city, preserving memories for generations. In an age where everything moves so quickly, this little booth reminds us to slow down, capture a moment, and hold onto it forever.


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