glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Bookmark and Share
Teske, Edmund (1911-1996)    
page: 1  2  3  4  

In a career that spanned over sixty years, American photographer Edmund Teske created a distinct and inventive body of work that embraced multiple styles and subjects, from somber urban vistas to intimate, often eroticized, portraits. Although primarily self-taught in the photographic process, Teske's sophisticated experiments with darkroom techniques, such as solarization, layered negatives, and composite printing became his signature distinction.

Noting that Teske considered himself a "poet with a camera," the curator and writer Julian Cox observed that Teske's "subject matter--sometimes abstract, often , and always lyrical and poetic--opened up new areas for photographers to explore."

Similarly, Lee Witkin, a photography dealer who has exhibited many of Teske's works, heralded him as "one of the forgotten greats of American photography," and observed that "his photographs are poems of his life--fragments of the far past combined with yesterday and today."

Edmund Teske was born on the near South Side of Chicago, Illinois on March 7, 1911, the first of three children to German Lutheran immigrants, Rudolph and Olga Teske.

When he was a young child, his family moved out of the city to a small farm a few miles outside of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. His father attempted to raise cows and chickens, and grow wheat, potatoes, and cucumbers. The work, however, turned out to be much more strenuous--and much less prosperous--than expected, and within a short time the family moved back to Chicago.

Teske recalled taking his first photographs at the age of seven, capturing images of his parents and assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins at a family picnic, using his mother's Eastman Kodak box camera.

"And lo and behold," he remarked many years later, "the entire objective world was boiled down to where a child could get a deeper sense of it. There was Aunt Tina, the duchess of the family, and I had her where I wanted her--right in the ground glass of my big box camera. That started that: From then on, I was a snap shooter."

He attended Madison Elementary School on Chicago's South Side where his interest in photography was further encouraged by one of his teachers, Mabel A. Morehouse. Not only did Morehouse instruct her students in basic photographic techniques, but also inspired them to approach their work creatively.

Teske soon became obsessed. He set aside other childhood interests, such as printmaking and playing the saxophone and the piano, to pursue his hobby of photography almost exclusively.

He gradually became uninspired by his academic studies and dropped out of high school in 1927, just two semesters short of graduation. Nonetheless, Teske remained an avid reader, and was particularly interested in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud. His greatest admiration, however, was for the poetry of Walt Whitman.

As Julian Cox notes in his monograph on Teske, "It was especially in regard to the expression of his own sexuality that Teske gleaned much from the poetry of Walt Whitman, who openly acknowledged the potential for same-gender affinities. Teske sensed that he was inherently drawn to both men and women and believed that the overlapping masculine and feminine attributes in the individual should be honored, and explored, rather than denied."

Soon after leaving school, Teske found employment at Mandel Brothers department store in downtown Chicago. In the evenings, he took drawing and painting classes at the Huttle Art Studio.

Motivated by his art classes, Teske set up a darkroom in the basement of his family's home. He later described the excitement of experimenting with photography as "like sitting down at the piano and getting lost in the musical composition."

In 1933, Teske became friends with Edwin Boland, a Chicago photographer who produced images of openly eroticized male nudes. Teske recalled that Boland "was very much into the wonder and the beauty of the athletic male being, and he emulated the beauty of the male form as it was emulated in ancient Greece."

Teske was captivated by Boland's bold themes and subject matter, and began experimenting in homoerotic imagery himself. In the basement studio of his family's home, Teske took his first male nude photographs. His 1933 study of two friends, Harry Gillies and Raymond Hammond, demonstrates, as Julian Cox notes, "an unabashed enjoyment of the nude male form." Cox further observes that "the twinning of nude figures immediately heightens the picture's homoerotic appeal" and "both men are self-consciously posed in profile to vaunt their angular facial features and taut, muscular physiques."

In addition to Boland's work, the art of a number of prominent contemporary photographers, including Man Ray, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Alfred Stieglitz, also inspired Teske. In fact, in the spring of 1936, Teske took a train trip to New York City, principally to meet Stieglitz at his gallery, An American Place. It was an experience that Teske later described as "formative."

He also met Stieglitz's wife, the painter Georgia O'Keeffe, at the gallery. "I met her briefly in a silent moment," he remembered, "that has expanded into an eternity. [To] have O'Keeffe look at you and smile opened the doors into the creative realms of being."

    page: 1  2  3  4   next page>  
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts
Popular Topics:


Williams, Tennessee
Williams, Tennessee

Literary Theory: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer

The Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance

Romantic Friendship: Female
Romantic Friendship: Female

Feminist Literary Theory

American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969
American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Erotica and Pornography
Erotica and Pornography

Mishima, Yukio
Mishima, Yukio

Sadomasochistic Literature

Beat Generation
Beat Generation




This Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.