Mark I. Chester
Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Back Piece © Mark I. Chester
from "Feeling Good on the Edge of Madness #1," 1981
and "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," 1981
30 photographs - 11"x14" matted to 16"x20"

These are portraits of San Francisco South of Market men and erotic images of men tied up. Direct. Flash on-camera explorations of bondage as something sexy and hot. Ropes that flow like a mandala. What else is there to say? (grin)

Actually there is a lot to say.  Like I moved to San Francisco in 1977 from Wisconsin having lived in Milwaukee and Madison all my life.  A shy midwest boy lost in the sexual excess of the gay sexual underground scene in San Francisco.

Some would say I am still lost although I may be the only one who thinks I am still shy and lost despite what these images and my website may suggest.  I was raised in the good/bad 50s and 60s and had been brainwashed to believe that homoeroticism was something sick and dirty.  Even the images I found in gay porn seemed to have nothing to do with the kind of sex I was having or the kinds of men I personally found sexy and erotic..

So I started to photograph the men in my life and my sex scenes.  In the beginning, I never intended that my photographs would become public.  Even so, to respect the privacy of the men I photographed, most of these photographs did not include faces or identities.  This was perhaps the perfect metaphor for this still secret and hidden part of our lives.

In May 1981, I put on my first photographic exhibition "Feeling Good on the Edge of Madness # 1." I hung photographs in my tiny four room South of Market apartment (the area had not yet been upgraded and renamed SOMA) on a little alley called Brush Place, just off Folsom St., behind the historic, but then closed, Red Star Saloon with its infamous upstairs bathhouse known as The Barracks.  At the time I had no idea how prophetic the title of that show would become.