Next week Same Same will announce 2009’s list of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians. Next week will also see two past members of that list come together as part of a new visual arts exhibition in Sydney. Same Same talks to legendary photographer William Yang about his new series of work entitled “Photographing Matthew Mitcham”.
So what was it like shooting Matthew?
It was tricky just getting at Matthew, because he’s really busy. It was the time just after Mardi Gras, and he was training to go to the world titles in Rome. I suppose that’s the hardest part of it, getting at these people, celebrities, who are busy and famous, I suppose. They’re hard to pin down.
In terms of taking his photograph, he’s very easy to photograph, he’s easy on the eye, and he’s a bit of a performer, with an emotional range. So he’s quite adept as a subject.
Where did you shoot the series?
They were shot at a friend’s place in Potts Point.
What was it about Matthew that made you want to shoot him?
He’s quite an obvious person for me to shoot, because I do photograph gay people. He’s also good looking, and he’s quite famous, so really for all of those reasons. I did actually watch him win the Olympic gold medal in real time, I just happened to be watching the television while it was on. I suppose that whole incident endeared him to me.
And to a lot of people I guess.
I see that you’ve written on the images. It reminded me of your ‘Friends Of Dorothy’ series.
Yes, I suppose that’s become a speciality of mine, writing on images because, first of all, it contextualises the photograph, but secondly the handwriting identifies them as mine. All photographs tend to look the same in some ways, so it’s good to have something that identifies the photos as yours.
Do you write on many of your photos?
I tend now to produce photographs that are written on, just so I’ve got that identifiable style.
I think it’s great, because for me I’m more of a text-driven person than a visual person. So the two together works really well. Which is your favourite of the series?
The one where you don’t see his head, where I’ve just written on his chest about why I wanted to photograph him.
It’s been over a year now since Matthew won gold. Why do you think that Matthew is still someone of note?
Well, I suppose now it’s because he supports the gay community and he’s out there as a gay celebrity – that’s really what he’s become. He doesn’t shy away from being associated with gay things. And I think that’s terrific.
William Yang’s ‘Photographing Matthew Mitcham’ exhibits at Barry Stern Galleries, 19 Glenmore Road, Paddington NSW 2021, from December 14. The Same Same 29 for 2009 will be announced online on December 17.