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  • Bookshop displays the stuff people leave behind in books

    2018 - 11.21

    Who are they? For 12 years bookshop owner Ben Kemp has been collecting stuff that falls out of secondhand books, including photos of weddings, families and even a man pointing a gun. Photo: Simon SchluterA St Kilda bookshop has built a large collection of stuff found in old books.

    If you look twice, says Ben Kemp, co-owner of Bookhouse, it’s more than a pile of photos, locks of hair, weird notes and letters. “Each one’s a story.”

    A circa 1940s bride, in full veil, white dress and bouquet, beams out from a black and white wedding photo – which has been torn. Was there a bitter divorce?


    In a colour photo, a bald man wearing bling and a leather coat points a real-looking gun at the camera (below). Is he rehearsing a drug deal? Or a gangsta music video?


    In a note Mr Kemp found, a woman called Nicole apologises to someone, for making a pass at them the day before. She awkwardly makes light of it, suggesting they go swimming today, as “friends”.

    In more than a decade, Mr Kemp and wife Margot McCartney have collated 400 items, posting some online on Instagram, https://instagram苏州美甲美睫培训学校/lostbetweenthecovers/ and on the wall of their shop, in Robe Street.

    Among them is a photo of what looks like former politicians Frank and Simon Crean and their family (below).


    A jubilant teenager with a blonde perm and Jenny-Kee style jumper sits on the bonnet of her snazzy 1980s sedan. It must be her first car, or is the day she got her licence?


    A young couple gazes blissfully at each other (below). You wonder, was it their first date? Are they still together? Or did they have a terrible row and split up the next day?


    And who is Friederich Benjamin (below)? Presumably the elderly man behind the sign among a large group of people. Are they his family? His employees? Or is he a loved church elder?


    Mr Kemp also has photo negatives of a “very well known Australian pop-rock star” posing on a boat “with a whole lot of naked girls”, but he’s not naming names. “I thought we might send them back to him, anonymously.”

    Recently Mr Kemp’s own son, Bede, recognised a blonde woman photographed sitting on a bed eating from a plate, and it turned out to be his mate’s mother in younger days.

    A circa 1930s letter mentioned a mural on a wall of a backyard in South Yarra. Ms McCartney sent the letter to the current owners of the house, and they scraped back the paint on the same wall to find the mural, just as described.

    In other books Mr Kemp has found money, mainly old $1 and $2 notes – “I’m waiting for the big one” – and a white powder in a plastic pouch that may have been drugs.

    There are more than 20 locks of hair, “always in a little envelope”. Usually hair comes without a note, so we’ll never know if they’re keepsakes of an adoring grandma, or a fetishist who snipped them off train passengers.

    One of the most intriguing finds was a white DVD, labelled in green texta: ‘Mitch and Rob’s Massive Bangkok Adventure’. Mr Kemp hasn’t viewed it – he’s afraid of what he might find.

    Another strange one is a carefully hand-written letter from a boy named Lachlan informing someone called Ali that he fell off a friend’s motorbike. Lachlan’s letter contains one of the actual medical stitches he got on his knee, and a sketch of the wound.

    Mr Kemp can’t bring himself to discard any item in case they mean something to someone. To claim one, there is no fee or interrogation. “You just have to say, ‘that’s me’ or ‘I know who that is’ and I’ll give it to you.”

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