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Teske, Edmund (1911-1996)    
 
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Later in 1936, at the age of 25, Teske was invited by the celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright to stay at his Wisconsin studio, Taliesin North, as a photographer and archivist for the Taliesin Fellowship program.

Wright's studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin was established as a community dedicated to stimulating individual growth and development in all the arts, but particularly architecture. The Taliesin Fellowship was designed to foster an exploration of the connectedness of different forms of artistic expression.

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As he recalled, "Mr. Wright looked at my folio of photographs and said . . . 'Let's keep Teske here to do portraits of us all.'"

Teske created a photographic workshop within Taliesin to document the daily activities of the Fellowship and of Wright's many architectural projects. Wright also encouraged Teske to explore the different relationships between architecture and photography.

Teske was open about his attraction to other men during his stay at Taliesin and his sexuality appeared never to have been met with censure or disapproval by Wright or the other members of the Fellowship. In fact, as two recent biographers of the architect have noted, "[Wright] was undeniably drawn to gay men, and felt comfortable with them."

Teske remembered attending a Halloween party at Taliesin; he was dressed in a conventional tuxedo while his lover at the time, a male apprentice, came dressed in a long gown of cream-colored Spanish lace. "He made a more beautiful woman than he did a man," Teske later recalled. The two men were dancing in the Taliesin living room when Wright tapped Teske on the shoulder. "I stepped aside," Teske said, "and turned the Spanish prima donna over to [Wright], and he danced with her."

Reflecting on his experiences many years later, Teske said, "My photography is a summation of my life experience," of which, "Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin are the dominant chords, the dominant intonations."

Teske worked at Taliesin for two years and then eventually moved back to Chicago. However, in 1939, Teske was in New York, working as an assistant for the famed photographer, Berenice Abbott. Abbott is perhaps best known for her photographs of New York City architecture, as well as for her memorable images of lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men in Paris and New York.

Shortly after his return to Chicago from New York in 1940, Teske attended classes and taught informally at the New Bauhaus (later renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology), a design school founded in 1937 by the Hungarian painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy, who was a strong advocate on the integration of technology and industry into the arts.

One of the most admired photographs that Teske took during this same period was a black-and-white portrait of his boyfriend, Richard Soakup. In the photograph, Soakup, bare-chested and grease-covered, emerges from a dark interior, an automobile in the background, which he has clearly just been repairing. The natural light is focused on Soakup's tousled, curly blond hair and smooth chest. As Julian Cox notes, "although Soakup is engaged in labor usually associated with men, the intimate image has a soft, almost feminine, quality to it."

Teske also commenced on a series of photographs that he later called "Portrait of My City," which documented urban scenes of Chicago. He captured images of steel mills, storefronts, industrial buildings, and makeshift shanties.

Teske believed that photographing such quotidian objects could elevate them and reveal their larger significance, explaining, "Their emotional value is physical--being strong in structure and movement--and sensuous in textural rendition. They are experienced rather than recognized."

With the entrance of the United States into World War II, Teske was drafted at the beginning of 1942 and summoned for a physical examination prior to his induction into the Army. He failed the medical exam, rejected on the grounds of "asocial tendencies, psychoneurosis, and emotional instability"--coded medical terms, perhaps, to indicate someone as unselfconsciously attracted to men as Teske.

His considerable photographic skills and experience were noted, however, and Teske was appointed by the War Department as an Assistant Photographer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois.

Although Teske found the work tedious, it provided him with financial security and the means to undertake his own photography after hours. Teske also found himself in a predominantly all-male environment with the independence to continue to pursue his interest in same-sex relationships and homoerotic imagery.

For example, he befriended two young men whom he met at the Rock Island Arsenal. They both offered to pose nude for his camera. Teske took a series of nudes of one of these young men, and his photographs convey a distinct interest in the sitter's muscular body and a keen appreciation of the nude male form.

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