The Lido Bistro

The people in these photographs were regular customers of the Lido Bistro, an eatery and bar in the Belconnen Mall. The Belconnen Mall is the largest shopping centre in Belconnen, a district on the north-west of Australia’s national capital, Canberra. Now known as the Lido Cafe, this business has operated continuously in the same location since the mall opened in 1978. The portraits were taken at the Lido. On one of their visits a week or two later, the subjects penned a message on their photographs in their own handwriting. The conversation started off with their musings on the Lido itself, but they were free to go wherever they liked so long as they maintained a focus on themselves. The decision over what to write provoked deep thought and more than some anxiety. Of no less importance was the handwriting itself with most making a great effort to keep it neat and to avoid mistakes. The messages took much longer to complete than the photographs took to shoot. Curiously, where people were nonchalant about donating their images, they had real qualms about the writing, as though their messages had more scope to reveal something that they would prefer to keep hidden. Clearly, some people were more guarded than others but their messages are no less telling. Despite the differences in approach taken by each subject, the messages add a depth and intimacy to the images, transforming the final product into something of a self-portrait.

This series of portraits was part of SCENES FROM THE MALL, an exhibition of photographic portraits taken in 1989 and 1990 at the Belconnen Mall. The exhibition was staged at the Belconnen Arts Centre, very close to where the pictures were made, between 1.dec.2023 and 11.feb.2024.

There's a video treatment of
the entire set of Lido portraits