The Shoppingtown

Where once people would hawk their wares in town squares and entertain on the street, the mall provided a new environment for people to promote goods and services to the public. Taken in 1989, this series of portraits documents those doing business in the Belconnen Mall’s common areas. The Belconnen Mall is the largest shopping centre in Belconnen, a district on the north-west of Canberra, Australia’s national capital. By the late 1980s, the mall had become known as a shoppingtownThere were organised shows and performances on stage and stalls that advertised products, providing samples to shoppers and generating sales. These people drifted through the mall – itinerant entertainers, travelling salespeople, temps and casuals from employment agencies and volunteers, all trying to drum up business. They spent days or weeks there before moving on.

These photographs are evidence of things erased by the passing of time. In the age of the Internet, encyclopaedia salesmen are no more. The shelf displays in Coles look strangely different from those we see today. Barcodes are not prominent but handwriting is. The Belconnen Mall’s Centre Stage, once the focal point for commercial entertainment that hosted the Whack-A-Doo Show and Larry Keith’s Wonder Dogs, has long since disappeared. 

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.