Transgressive, honest, devastating: the Australian exhibition reframing the male gaze

By Steve Dow

A regional New South Wales gallery defies Border Force to take an extraordinary and unashamedly queer look at the male form

Sydney photographer William Yang was unexpectedly reunited with a former boyfriend, Allan Booth, while walking through ward 17 of Sydney's St Vincent's hospital. It was 1988; they had not seen each other in four years. Yang took a photograph of Booth – a patient there, propped up in bed – and wrote on it in black felt tip pen: “He seemed like an old man and I had a strong desire to burst into tears.”

The photograph was among the first of a devastatingly truthful series that Yang would present as part of a slide photo talk called Sadness, later made into a documentary film. The series ended with a 1990 portrait of Booth's deceased body, eyes and mouth open, a scarf reading “freedom from want” around his neck.

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