Mark I. Chester

images from Outcasts

Geoff Mains, lighting the way in the darkness


Geoff had seen my photographs and started a correspondence with me before he moved to San Francisco.  He told me about a book he was writing called Urban Aboriginals, now a leather classic, and sent me sample chapters.  He felt a kinship to my work, seeing it as the photographic equivalent of the themes he dealt with in his book.

I had this sense of him lighting the way in the darkness and took this image of him doing just that.  Although technically, in order to make it look the way it does, I had to photograph it in reverse, with Geoff in the middle and then moving backwards.  It fits one of my basic beliefs about photography: ‘the camera doesn’t lie, but it doesn’t always tell the truth.’  When Winston Leyland saw my work, he convinced Geoff to drop me from the project because my work was too artistic and ethereal.  He wanted something more direct and reportorial, so they used the work of Robert Pruzan.  A young trendy writer recently described “Urban Aboriginals” as a valuable text if somewhat dated.  From a new idea, to a classic to somewhat dated in about 15 years.

Peter Hartman, founder of 544 Natoma Performance Gallery, said that he thought that those of us, living, loving and dying South of Market, creating new lives and new ways, had known each other in a past life.  That we had all been part of an elite guard of Roman soldiers, of gay male lovers, who fought bravely together and died together on the battle field.  In Robert Chesley’s “Dog Plays,” almost in a take-off on this idea and based on something that actually happened to Geoff Mains, a character with AIDS talks about his friend who has AIDS dementia.   His friend has an accident and drives off the road and is lost for two days.  While waiting to be rescued, he has a dream, in which he sees, his former lovers and friends, now all dead, all waiting for him on the top of a hill.  Waiting for him to come home.

I remember Geoff driving off the road and being *lost* for 2 days.  Maybe the first time I encountered AIDS dementia.  I remember Robert remembering Geoff, watching the first reading of "Dog Plays" in my studio as part of the events around a show I did of portraits I had done of Robert over the years.  And I hope by telling this story that someday someone will remember me, remembering Robert, remembering Geoff who had a dream which lead him to create a moment in time that people would remember.