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Patrick White by William Yang

An interview with photographer William Yang who recalls his encounters with the author Patrick White.

Interview with William Yang
Video: 2 minutes

William Yang: The very first time I met Patrick was backstage of one of his new plays called Big Toys. Brian Thomson, the set designer, discovered a letter that Patrick at the age of six had written to Santa Claus: “Please send me a history of Australia, some marbles, a pistol, a butterfly net, and a mouse that runs across the floor.”

And Brian had bought all these presents for him, and I’d always heard stories that Patrick White was so bad-tempered and a curmudgeon, but when I first met him he had a huge smile on his face when he was opening the presents. And in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile in the subsequent 14 years that I knew him.

We never, ever talked about his novels or literature. We’d always talk about plays and the theatre. We’d talk about actors, we’d talk about our productions, so it was all on a bit of a gossipy level as well. And a lot of my photographs are people’s personal life. I think that the serious side of him was in his work. He was probably of the school of thought that did think that you had to go through suffering to reach, well, a kind of enlightenment. Because he was a novelist, I think that he saw torturous paths in people’s lives.