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  1. Looking into the empty shells of the Opera House mid-construction, from Kurraba Point
    Photograph: Supplied/City of Sydney Archives 1966Looking into the empty shells of the Opera House from Kurraba Point in 1966
  2. The Opera House as it looks in 2021, with city construction in full swing
    Photograph: Supplied/Kevin SundgrenThe Opera House as it looks in 2021, with city construction in full swing
  3. The shell of the Harbour Bridge being built at Dawes Point in 1926
    Photograph: Supplied/NSW Roads & Maritime donated by E.BowdenBuilding the Harbour Bridge at Dawes Point in 1926
  4. The Harbour Bridge at Dawes Point, taken in 2021
    Photograph: Supplied/Kevin SundgrenThe Harbour Bridge at Dawes Point, taken in 2021
  5. A view of Town Hall and the QVB in 1917, with horses pulling carts
    Photograph: Supplied/Mitchell LibraryA view of Town Hall and the QVB in 1917
  6. A view of Town Hall and the QVB in 2020, with the light rail
    Photograph: Supplied/Kevin SundgrenA view of Town Hall and the QVB in 2020
  7. A view of King Street in Newtown circa 1912 with old automobiles
    Photograph: Supplied/City of Sydney archivesCheck out this view of King Street in Newtown circa 1912
  8. Newtown's King Street snapped in 2020
    Photograph: Supplied/Kevin SundgrenNewtown's King Street snapped in 2020
  9. An illustration of Sydney Cove (Warrane) drawn by E. Dayes in 1788
    Photograph: Supplied/ State Library of NSWAn illustration of Sydney Cove (Warrane) drawn by E. Dayes in 1788
  10. Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, in 2019
    Photograph: Supplied/Phil HarveySydney Cove, Port Jackson, in 2019

Marvel at these amazing views of Sydney then and now

Check out these historical images of our city side-by-side with the way Sydney looks today

Stephen A Russell
Edited by
Stephen A Russell

Phil Harvey, the founder of social media group Sydney Then and Now (STAN), has always been fascinated by the remarkable transformation of Sydney’s streetscapes. “I have had an interest in then and now photography for as long as I can remember,” he recalls.

The law firm clerk’s very first attempt at creating a comparison between today and way back when was when he was 15 years old in 1980, using a snap of his family home in Drummoyne and finding an old sepia-coloured snap of it as it once was, with a noticeably different veranda out front. It sparked a lifelong interest, but it was only fairly recently that he kicked it up a gear.

“One night, in 2013, I was looking for then and now photos of Sydney online and noticed that none were posted on Facebook,” he says. “I started creating a few myself by finding old photos in Trove, and then finding the matching view on Google Street View, then joining them together as one image.”

Initially posting these composite shots to a Facebook page he co-admins, called Old Sydney Album, they soon proved so popular they deserved their own home on the social media site, and that was the birth of STAN. It has since branched out to Instagram and Twitter.

Here are a few of our favourite posts from Sydney Then and Now's Instagram feed.

Bennelong Point then and now

This cracking aerial shot of the iconic Sydney Opera House mid-construction was shot circa 1965 shot from the Len Stone collection. A later shot of the completed building was taken by Bob Pearce.

Sydney Opera House then and now

While we’re looking at the Opera House, this overhead shot of the SOH from 1965 was also shot from the Len Stone collection, next to a later shot of the completed building as taken by Bob Pearce.

Campbell’s Cove then and now

And here’s a look at the working harbour pre-Opera House, as taken by Max Dupain in 1947. You can see Wharf 7 looking pretty different to the 2021 shot by Kevin Sundgren, with a total reconfiguration now home to tall ship cruises.

Dawes Point then and now

And here’s a stunning shot of the Harbour Bridge just as it was beginning to take its world-famous shape, snapped in 1926, with thanks to NSW Roads and Maritime Services. Kevin Sundgren snapped the same spot in 2021. You can still see the terraces on Lower Fort Street.

Hickson Road then and now

And here’s another angle of the Harbour Bridge snapped from the South Pylon by C. Lambert at some stage in the 1930s. It was still a beach back then, and the STAN team had a bit of fun recreating kids at play, back then on what is now a bitumen road.

Mosman then and now

Sydney remains a dear green place, but here’s a cracking shot that demonstrates a swathe of nature now lost. The State Library holds this snap of the Spit in 1875, as compared to the road running right through it now, as snapped by David V Wallace in 2020.

Sydney Town Hall then and now

Take a trip from clip-clop to clickety-clack with these contrasting views down George Street towards the QVB. The first, replete with horse drawn carts, was taken in 1917 and is held in the State Library collection. Kevin Sundgren took the contemporary shot in 2020, now with added light rail.

Pyrmont Bridge then and now

Place your bets on when this vintage snap of Pyrmont was taken? Ok, we’ll just tell you. It’s actually not all that long ago, in comparison with some of the other gems listed here, snapped in 1990. The big difference is that the Pyrmont Power Station has been bulldozed in favour of the Star City casino, photographed by Kevin Sundgren in 2020.

Newtown then and now

We love this time warp that zooms through the design evolution of automobiles whizzing their way along King Street. The first pic hails from circa 1912, care of the City of Sydney archives, with Kevin Sundgren taking the 2020 shot. 

Hyde Park then and now

How’s about this remarkable glimpse of the construction of the ANZAC War Memorial and Pool of Reflection, taken between world wars in 1933 when the city barely featured in the backdrop? These days it’s a very different outlook, as Kevin Sundgren’s 2020 snap shows.

City lights then and now

Some of the posts are a bit Where’s Wally, or spot the difference. At first glance, these shots of the CBD taken from Kirribilli looking out to Jeffrey Street Ferry Wharf appear exactly the same. But look a little closer and you’ll spot that the Sydney Eye Tower is yet to appear in 1974, but just peeks over the surrounding skyscrapers in 2019 (taken by Kevin Sundgren).

Sydney Cove/Warrane then and now

There are some sobering posts too, including this haunting illustration by drawn by E. Dayes from a sketch by J. Hunter in 1788, marking the fateful arrival of the First Fleet into Sydney Cove. Compare it to the urban density of Port Jackson today, as taken by Phil Harvey in 2019.

Love our city's history? Check out this guide to our best Art Deco buildings. 

Also take a look at rejected plans for the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge


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