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Mark I. Chester papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography/Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Additional collection guides

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Mark I. Chester papers
    Dates: 1980-2006
    Collection Number: 1997-26
    Creator/Collector: Chester, Mark I., 1950-
    Extent: 2.35 linear feet
    Repository: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
    San Francisco, California 94105
    Abstract: This collection documents the photographic career of radical gay sex artist Mark I. Chester from 1981 to 1997. His papers contain essays and books, announcements, catalogs, posters, publicity about and reviews of his work and exhibitions, and publications with examples of his work. There are also videos of art exhibitions featuring his work, the work of other artists and a slide show lecture he gave with Tee A. Corrine. The collection also includes journalism about a gay arts from the mid-1980s to 1997; published and unpublished personal writings focused on eroticism and radical sexuality from 1981 to 1997; posters and flyers for a variety of events and groups, including the Male Figure Drawing Group and Bondage Buddies; and copies of the journal "Photo Metro."
    Language of Material: English


    Collection is open for research. Funding for processing this collection was provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been transferred to the GLBT Historical Society. Mark I. Chester retains copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    Mark I. Chester papers. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Mark I. Chester in 1998 and 2006.

    Biography/Administrative History

    I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 15th, 1950. I am a second generation American Jew. Three of my grandparents emigrated from Russia and one emigrated from Romania. I graduated from Nicolet High School in1968 and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1972 with a B.S. in Education with a special focus on Special Education. I received a M.S. in Education Psychology from the UW Madison in 1973 and taught emotionally disturbed adolescents at Madison West High School in Madison, Wisconsin from 1973 to 1976. In 1977 I returned to Milwaukee to live with my mother after my father's death. One morning, after having been out all night for the first time, my mother confronted me, telling me I was "sick and dirty" for being gay. This event changed the course of my life. Within two weeks I packed my bags and moved to San Francisco in May of 1977 and made San Francisco my permanent home. Within six months, I moved to the South of Market, which has been my home ever since. For four years, I worked a variety of jobs, in city government and the financial district. In 1979 I started photographing my sexuality and in 1981 I started exploring the option of photography as a life choice. In May of 1981, I held my first exhibition in my studio. In June, 1981, I took a photography class at the San Francisco Art Institute. On the last day of the class, July 10, 1981, while at the Art Institute printing photographs, an arson fire, later referred to as the Folsom Street Fire became the largest fire in San Francisco since the 1906 earthquake. I arrived home to find my neighborhood in flames. The fire destroyed a half block of South of Market and literally stopped at the door to my bedroom/playroom/studio. When I was escorted back into my apartment, I was shocked to find my apartment had been ransacked and my personal belongings had been stolen or vandalized. A photo of my bedroom was printed on the back page of the next day's San Francisco Chronicle and my playroom was identified as a "torture chamber." I sued the city of San Francisco and all the local newspaper and tv media. This second event again changed the course of my life. Since 1981 I have continued to document my life photographically and explore black and white fine art photography. I have held many exhibitions of my work in my studios, including an annual exhibition in my studio on Folsom Street, during the Folsom Street Fair. I have also exhibited (and often premiered) the work of other gay, lesbian and sexual artists in my studio. In addition, since 1986, I have sponsored a weekly male figure drawing group in my studio, originally called Gay Men's Sketch and latter renamed, Male Figure Drawing Group. In addition to my normal activities, I travel when I can and do slide show talks about my work and life. I have spoken in bathhouses, sex clubs, bookstores, archives and libraries and arts organizations. In 1986 my first book of photography, called Diary of a Thought Criminal was published. My work has been seen in exhibitions across the US and internationally. I have also written for a variety of publications, local and national, mostly about the queer and/or erotic arts.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This is an initial donation of materials related to the work and life of Mark I. Chester, establishing a collection of my materials with the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California. It is my hope and expectation that over time, this collection will grow to include other materials. I have collected a variety of materials which provide an overview of my photographic work from 1981 to the present. The centerpiece of these materials is a hardcover copy of my book, Diary of a Thought Criminal. In addition, I have included announcements, catalogs, posters, publicity about and reviews of my work and exhibitions, in addition to the related publication of my work in books, magazines and newspapers. Of special interest are video documents of a slide show lecture I gave on my work at San Francisco Camerawork in April, 1993 and homemade video documents of exhibitions of my work and the work of other artists. I have provided copies of journalism articles, from writings in a variety of gay publications, but mostly the Bay Area Reporter, covering a range of gay arts including exhibitions, books and performances mostly during the mid 1980s although samples range to the present. I have also provided examples of personal writing that have been published, focused on eroticism and radical sexuality in a wide variety of publications from 1981 to the present. In addition there are unpublished personal writings including chapbooks, fire dreams from shortly before the Folsom Street Fire and word poems. There are also posters related to a variety of other activities I have sponsored including the Male Figure Drawing Group (Gay Men's Sketch),Piercing Clinics, Bondage Buddies and the Kinky J/O, Safesex Leathersluts. Flyer/poster layouts from a wide variety of events and groups are also included.

    Indexing Terms

    Gay erotic photography.
    Gay men --Sexual behavior.
    Chester, Mark I., 1950-

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