Mark I. Chester

images from Outcasts

Hanging Scene - 1983

I photographed Jim and Dave doing a hanging scene at 544 Natoma Performance Gallery.  It was a magical night.  An incredible image came out of this shoot of Dave in a copís uniform tied to a chair with light slashing across the frame.  For over 25 years, men have told me how much this image has touched them.

But as Dave reminded me in a series of posts on the internet, it wasnít a magical night for him.  He was bored.  He felt ignored.  Everything took too long.  He didnít get copies of the photos.  (He did.)  He didnít like the photos that came out of it.  (Which makes you wonder why he keeps posting them on the internet if he doesnít like them...)  blahblahblahblahblah................

But Dave doesnít understand.  It was a magical night.  Not because it was smooth, quick, dark and intense with Kodak memories to cherish.  It was a magical night because it was this mad scene, like something from the Mad Hatterís Tea Party.  There was Dave - bored, whinny and self-indulgent.  Peter Hartman, 544 Natoma's owner and his lover Jonathan Kinnett, setting and resetting the lights, over and over again without end.  Ladders flying and Peter scampering up and down these tall ladders swaying in the air.  Gay playwright Robert Chesley writing everything down in his journal; thinking that he was distracting me and worrying about his ďpowerĒ over me.  Finally, to shut Dave up, I tied him to a chair in the middle of the 544 Natomaís polished wooden stage.  And as Peter continued to change lights, all of a sudden the space transformed, the light told a tale - something controlling, authoritarian, dark and sinister.  The light slashed back and forth across the frame; across the wall and then the stage, setting off the bound cop.  I took the photograph and as Peter changed the lights again, that space disappeared just as quickly as it had materialized.

Finally, we did get around to the actual hanging scene.  And for one brief moment, Dave was off the ground hanging only by the rope around his neck.  As Jim brought him down to the ground, he couldnít loosen the noose from around Daveís neck.  He frantically looked at me.  Me?  Iím just the photographer.....  I put down the camera and rushed over and managed to get the noose loosened.  (Hrmmmm.... and HE was supposed to have been the expert on hanging scenes!)  I held my breath until Dave regained consciousness and it appeared that he was ok.  Well as ok as someone can be who really wants to be hanged by the neck off the ground and live to tell about it.

After Jim and Dave left, Peter, Robert and I played around on the stage.  I canít tell you exactly what we did but it involved at various moments lights, my taking photographs, grappling, ropes, necks, kissing, groping and hard dicks, among other things.  It was a night of magical madness.

Fantasy remained a turn on rather than turning into a tragedy, but it was a little too close to the edge for me.  We all draw lines in the sand.  And those lines are constantly changing.  Iím not obsessed with the hanging, but itís a memory that is always there.  It stands as a challenge.  One moment of beauty and mad desire dancing blindly on the edge of the cliff.