Art Sets.

William Yang photographs

By the Art Gallery of NSW

Since the 1970s, William Yang has chronicled and memorialised Sydney's gay community and his own place within it. Armed with his camera, Yang is not simply a documentarian but a diarist. In his work, personal and intimate stories become part of a collective theory that is told through the collision of handwritten text and image.

Many of Yang's photographs are candid and celebratory depictions of homosexual desire that emphatically broaden the visibility of queer narratives. Yet they also trace the impact of HIV/AIDS on the community and society at large.

The photographs shown here stem from a body of work exhibited in the 1990s under the title Friends of Dorothy (a term used to signify homosexuality), during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. While they frankly confront the tenor of fear and anxiety that characterised the era, Yang's photographs are imbued with tenderness.

In the work titled Names, two photographs taken at an AIDS vigil are overlaid with the names of victims. Here, the tragedy is registered as both a shared and a personal loss.

These works are displayed in the 20th- and 21st-century Australian galleries at the Art Gallery of NSW in conjunction with the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium (27 October 2017 – 4 March 2018).