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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

From riot to revelry

William Yang’s Mardi Gras photographs are a reflection of his own emerging freedom through the decades, not to mention his documentation of ‘party time!’

1 Graham Sylvester's crowd, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1983. 2 Asian Lesbian and Gay Pride Group, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1993. 3 Lebanese Lesbians, New Mardi Gras, 2003. 4 Poof, Gay Mardi Gras, 1984. 5 Nexus, Gay Mardi Gras, 1981. 6 [Silence = Death, Action = Life written on the chests of two males, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1993], 1993. All William Yang. Collection: National Library of Australia © William Yang.

On the evening of 24 June 1978, five hundred activists gathered in Taylor Square, Sydney. Marking the anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots, they marched, seeking an end to police persecution and the repeal of anti-homosexual laws. 53 marchers were taken to Darlinghurst police station that night, after being harassed and beaten by police. This rights march would become Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the southern hemisphere’s largest festival, incorporating a massive public parade celebrating love and community. The police now take part. William Yang began documenting Sydney’s queer community in the 1970s.  ‘People were celebrating the breaking of a thousand years of oppression’, he told the ABC in a 2019 interview. Often working in series and reflecting on his Chinese-Australian and queer identity, Yang is one of Australia’s most highly regarded photographers. Of documenting the scene, Yang notes, ‘This was part of the gay liberation process: you don't have to be ashamed anymore’.

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Related information

Asian Lesbian and Gay Pride Group, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1993 William Yang
Asian Lesbian and Gay Pride Group, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1993 William Yang
Asian Lesbian and Gay Pride Group, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1993 William Yang
Asian Lesbian and Gay Pride Group, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1993 William Yang

In conversation with William Yang

Onsite

2:00pm, Sun 20 Jun

Join us in the Gallery to celebrate and reminisce with artist William Yang as he reflects on his joyous photographs of Australia’s LGBTIQ+ community and Mardi Gras from 1982 to 2018.

Graham Sylvester's crowd, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1983 William Yang
Graham Sylvester's crowd, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1983 William Yang
Graham Sylvester's crowd, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1983 William Yang
Graham Sylvester's crowd, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1983 William Yang

In conversation with William Yang

2:00pm, Sun 20 Jun

Join us from wherever you are to celebrate and reminisce with artist William Yang as he reflects on his joyous photographs of Australia's LGBTIQ+ community.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency