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Tuesday 11 April 2017

Review: William Yang: My Generation

Posted in: Movies
By Jay Bennie - 15th August 2013

William Yang: My Generation
NZ International Film Festival
Director: Martin Fox
Australia. 58mins

For most of his working life William Yang has been an outsider who worked on the inside of Sydney society, of the Sydney literati cliques and the Sydney gay scene.

Yang was born and brought up in Brisbane, of Chinese-Australian parents. Gay, artistic and indelibly Asian, he didn't fit in anywhere in white-bread Queensland so as soon as he could he headed south to Australasia's gaudiest gay mecca, Sydney. He had a good eye and excellent skills with a camera. He insinuated himself, or was invited into, the trendy, more bohemian fringes of that city and began snapping away. Still the outsider he documented the layers beneath the glossy magazine imagery of the artistic and homosexual sub-cultures.

In the 1070s and 80s it was hard to pick up any gay publication in that city without seeing his photography. He was regularly commissioned by Australian magazines and periodicals, particularly to enliven their social scene coverage. He created candid and documentary images, carefully crafted and slightly avante garde compositions and from time to time sublimely simple images of beautiful young men in delicately erotic poses.

In William Yang: My Generation, taken from his one man roadshow of slides and commentary, Yang guides us through the personalities and events he caught on film. His delivery straight to camera is overly earnest but kind of quirky for that and he is definitely engaging.

The images he uses to illustrate his take on Sydney's recent past are various and finely crafted. His insights are penetrative but never hurtful. His little jokes so heavy handed they are almost a subversive art-form in themselves.

For anyone who wants to understand the arty, liberal part of Sydney that helped underscore the blossoming of such gay entities as Mardi Gras, William Yang: My Generation is a very good place to start exploring.

- Jay Bennie

Jay Bennie - 15th August 2013

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