Edmund Rudolph Teske (March 7, 1911 – November 22, 1996) was a 20th-century American photographer who combined a career of taking portraits of artists, musicians and entertainers with a prolific output of experimental photography. His use of techniques like: combined prints, montages and solarizations led to "often romantic and mysterious images"
. Although he exhibited extensively and was well known within artistic photography circles during his lifetime, his work was not widely known by the public. He has been called "one of the forgotten greats of American photography."
Born in Chicago, Edmund Teske began taking photographs at age seven with his mother's Kodak
Scout 2-C camera. In 1931, while attending evening classes at the Huttle Art Studio, he installed a photographic studio in his family's basement. Soon he purchased a view camera and started photographing the streets of his hometown.
After working for a commercial studio in Chicago, Teske was awarded a photographic fellowship in 1936 that enabled him to study under the guidance of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Teske taught in the late 1930s at Chicago's New Bauhaus (later the Institute of Design), then moved to New York to work as Berenice Abbott'
In 1943, Teske settled in Los Angeles, where he became interested in cinema, and in the early 1950s he was active with several small theater groups. During this period Teske refined the experimental photographic processes that he had begun to explore in the 1930s, such as solarization, combination printing, and chemical toning, and began to regularly exhibit and publish his work. In the 1960s, Teske was an influential visiting professor of photography at UCLA and other schools.
Source: International Center of Photography
Edmund Teske believed in the transformative potential of photography. He was interested in more than the inherent characteristic of the medium to record a specific moment in time. For Teske photography was a way to explore the soul of his subjects and creating the negative was only the beginning. His composites of multiple negatives and his use of solarization, as well as his exquisite gelatin silver prints, express the complexity and depth of his personal vision.
His composites often layered images from different periods and places and sometimes outside sources. As the assemblage artist George Herms suggested, Teske's composites and solarizations are like Jazz variations on a theme. Though they often contain allegory and symbolism, they are not nostalgic. Rather, they exist as expressions of his various beliefs. Teske believed in the coexistence of both the masculine and the feminine within every individual. Furthermore, he believed in the connectedness of all life and that time is both fluid and cyclical.
In the 1930s, Edmund Teske gained experience in theater and portraiture photography and became friends with Nathan Lerner, who introduced Teske to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
. During the depression, he photographed for Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Strand
(for his film, Native Land), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and he printed for Berenice Abbott
In 1943 Teske traveled to Arizona to photograph at Wright’s Taliesin West and continued on to Los Angeles where he became friends with Man Ray
and Anaïs Nin. Teske was introduced to Vedantic thought, a Hindu philosophy, and its mythology and symbolism greatly influenced Teske’s later work. In 1950 he moved to Topanga Canyon where he became a part of an enclave of artists, black-listed actors and intellectuals, including Wallace Berman, Will Geer, George Herms, Walter Hopps and Dean Stockwell. It was during this time within a nurturing environment of like-minded, creative, free-thinking individuals that Teske's singular style evolved.
Teske’s work was included in Museum of Modern Art
’s 1960 The Sense of Abstraction show and it was Edward Steichen who named Teske’s innovative process “duotone solarization.” While teaching at UCLA in the 1960s, Teske was a colleague of Robert Heineken and became a mentor to many local photographers.
Source: Gitterman Gallery