Chester Kessler was a student of Minor White’s photography program at the California School of Fine Arts. In the 1950s, he
was a part of San Francisco’s North Beach scene, photographing Beat writers, poets, and artists, including Allen Ginsburg
and James Baldwin. During the late 1950s and the early 1960s, he photographed and documented performances of postmodern dancer
Anna Halprin and San Francisco Dancer’s Workshop. His collection at MP+D contains approximately 1,500 photographs, negatives
and transparencies of important dancers and dance companies including such notables as George Balanchine, Ruth Beckford, Carlos
Carvajal, Lew Christensen, Anna Halprin, and Welland Lathrop.
Chester Monroe Kessler was born in New Melle, Missouri, on May 6, 1919. Kessler was raised in Missouri and went to high school
in St. Louis. After World War II, Kessler moved to Los Angeles. He studied photography at the Art Center School in Los Angeles
and animation and film making at the University of Southern California. After moving to San Francisco, Kessler studied with
Minor White, Bill Grant Jr., and Oliver Gagliani.
Since 1954, Kessler has had three one-man shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Kessler has also exhibited at U.C.
Berkeley, U.C. Davis, The University of Indiana, The Oakland Museum, Gottham Bookmart Gallery in New York City, Light Sound
Dimension in San Francisco, and the Focus Gallery in San Francisco.
Kessler is represented in the Theatre Arts Collection of the New York Public Library, in the Erotica Collection of the Kinsly
Institute, and in numerous private collections.
Chester Kessler died in San Francisco on May 6, 1979.
No. of containers: 7 boxes. Linear feet: 2.3
Literary, property, and publication rights have been assigned to the Museum of Performance + Design.
Entire collection is open for research use.