William Yang gets photographed. Cockatoo Island, NSW, Australia. 2010

Last weekend, I went to the Sydney Biennale again, with Engogirl to meet up with our friend Mai Long and her boyfriend Stuart. Even though I’d been to the biennale exhibits on Cockatoo Island before and hadn’t thought much of them, I figured it might be more interesting in the company of Mai.

Mai is an artist and she had a list of works that her artist friends said she must see. Needless to say, I found the exhibits far more interesting this time round. I’m not sure if it was Mai’s choices or that I’m so suggestible to being led.

Memo to self: Don’t ever volunteer at a hypnotism show.

In the afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting up with Mai’s mentor, the talented photographer and artist, William Yang. Mai had said to William earlier over the phone, that I was keen to photograph him and at first he said yes.

William Yang is very famous here in Australia as a photographer of the Sydney artist scene for the last 40 years and there is hardly anyone of creative note he hasn’t met or photographed. I thought it would be great to get a shot of William the chronicler who is usually the one who is photographing other people.

When I finally met William and asked if I could take his photo he said he’d changed his mind and didn’t feel comfortable about it.

At first I was taken aback, but then I said to him, “it was going to be very confrontational and I was going to get right up in your face like this” and I got within about 30 cm (about a foot)  with my 10mm lens, and quickly snapped a shot.

William, a bit surprised, said, “oh, that wasn’t so bad! Some people stuff around for ages”. So I then I showed him the shot and he nodded and smiled. I then went on to explain how I wanted to get a shot of him the unobtrusive photographer responding to me taking his photo in such an obvious way.

Later on we all went for a bit of a drinking session and I got to spend some time with William and his friend Glen. It’s no wonder William Yang has captured so many private moments of other people’s lives. He’s a quiet person who carefully chooses his words but also seems to enjoy noisy company. I’m sure there have been plenty of occasions where people have totally let down their guard with William.