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Chester Kessler Dance Photography Collection
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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: Chester Kessler Dance Photography Collection
    Dates: 1949-1974
    Collection Number: 981.041
    Creator/Collector: Kessler, Chester
    Extent: No. of containers: 7 boxes. Linear feet: 2.3
    Repository: Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library
    San Francisco, California 94124
    Abstract: 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.
    Language of Material: English


    Entire collection is open for research use.

    Publication Rights

    Literary, property, and publication rights have been assigned to the Museum of Performance + Design.

    Preferred Citation

    Chester Kessler Dance Photography Collection. Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library

    Acquisition Information

    This collection of dance photographs by Chester Kessler was received as a gift to the library from Robert Johnson on July 14, 1987.

    Biography/Administrative History

    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.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection consists of photographs of important local dancers and dance companies, negatives and transparencies, and biographical information. The photographic materials feature such notables as George Balanchine, Ruth Beckford, Carlos Carvajal, Lew Christensen, Anna Halprin, Welland Lathrop, and Zack Thompson. They cover the period between 1949 and 1974.

    Indexing Terms

    Ballet companies -- California -- San Francisco -- 20th century.
    Ballet dancers -- Portraits.
    Balanchine, George.
    Beckford, Ruth.
    Caravajal, Carlos.
    Christensen, Lew, 1909-1984.
    Halprin, Anna.
    Thompson, Zack.
    Dance Spectrum.
    Ruth Beckford and Company.
    San Francisco Ballet.
    Welland Lathrop Company.

    Additional collection guides