An Interview with Billy Maynard (2011)

Billy Maynard Q & A – Trans/Tender

How old are you?

Where were you born?

What do you want to explore in your work now and in the future?
I want to photograph a feeling I’ve had building inside since a young age. But without constructing any of the pictures deliberately. So far I have found this feeling is most often found in outsiders and fringe dwellers. I find myself more comfortable with outcasts. The feeling is growing bigger in me, so the pictures will follow.

The feeling is like a river running deep. And I know when I look at someone who has it, as do they. That’s how it starts.

When you look at your photos – do you notice a recurrent subject matter, mood or theme in your body of work to date?
They’re all dark in mood, and have a lot of black in the composition. I think I can photograph that feeling of being alone and anxious. Often I’ve isolated a single figure, and they’re the only person in the frame.

Do you have any photo mentors?

Phillip Morris taught me all I know in the darkroom and Patrick Jones has given me all the patience and generosity one could ask for. Also Laurence Aberhart ( who I stayed with in NZ) has unknowingly has had the largest influence on me in terms of ideas a way of thinking and a way of quietly working away.

Describe Trans-Tender to a blind person?
Rooms, makeup, cars, dirt, slums, friendship, isolation, god, darkness, nighttime, sunless, beds, cardboard, nescafe, cigarettes, whiskey, trust, cloves, rumours, dollar bills, beauty in awkward places, intimacy, east timor, outsiders, stress, anxiety, mud, rain, heat, stillness, smell, stench, quality of life, light-bulb, no dad, post war, pre-death, childhood, sex, ruined, UN, army, power cuts, hunger, hopelessness, damaged, drunk, shouting and acceptance. Through it all was the most beautiful acts tenderness.

Why did you choose this name?
Three reasons that are linked.

“Trans / Tender” has a similar timber to “transgender”. Most of the people I shot are the third sex. Tender means to sell. They made their money by selling what they could, most often their bodies.

What were your first impressions of Timor when you first visited aged 16?
Timor had life, it had energy. Nothing was dull and people actually talked to each other. It was a revelation coming home.

I was like – school sucks, get new clothes, lets go skate, lets paint, where’s the wine, trying new things – nothing works. Sydney, the city living in the you know? I stepped off the plane and into a slipstream in East Timor. Ever since I try to get that feeling back, and now I’m always wanting more. My threshold increases.

You said your ideas about your own work changed as you created the work – could you tell me how?
I went there green. I came back after the first trip having seen things that no one I know has, let alone people my age. Prostitutes, underground sex, Transvestites, all strapped up, fights and serious poverty. I got pretty sick too. My threshold for this stuff became higher, by the end I didn’t see things anything like I did when I arrived. By the end I grew into who people thought I was. So I went there knowing nothing. I left not only knowing all these things, but having been centrally involved in the above. At fist I thought everyone would whisper about the pictures i took and look to my sideways. But after the four months i felt like my imagery got soft. I had to come back and re-examine what i took and think about it everyday. Then I realised what I got was incredible – it was tough and tender. Even if I didn’t take one frame, it would have still been an incredible time. Peppy is among my closest friends ever. She grew me up and made me an artist.

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20 – 27 May, Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern NSW AUSTRALIA

(Text © Damien Minton Gallery. All images © copyright Billy Maynard. All rights reserved.)

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