Mark I. Chester
Sexual Portraits & Private Acts
from the Warzone
1986-1988

The Hanged Man © 1996 by Mark I. Chester
from "Sexual Portraits & Private Acts from the Warzone"
1986-1988
26 photographs - 11"x14" matted to 16"x20"

And it has been (and still is) a warzone. There were times when the sick and the dying relentlessly came at you so fast that you couldn't breathe. The only way to survive this kind of emotional despair is to be numb and feel nothing.  But if you're numb, you're not really living.  And that was the contradiction.  Feel and you felt like all you wanted to do was die because the pain of living made life unbearable or you could be numb and feel nothing, but underneath it all you knew that you weren't really living.  Some choice.....................

These are intense fine art photographic sexual portraits of San Francisco men and women living in the age of AIDS. The reality of AIDS is reflected in their eyes.  No longer innocent lambs on their way to not-so-innocent slaughter.  Hardened warriors.  Sexual outlaws.  Bent on the construction of a new ethic on the deconstructed ruins of a former dream.

This work took me three years and I put it out in three separate shows.  I was working on sexual portraits.  And as I worked, my equipment changed which forced the look of my photographs to change.  They started out grainy and soft and ended up sharper and smoother as if moving from wet dream fantasies to the sharper clarity of declaration and obsession.  Like when you are drawn to something and you just can't look away.  So much so that what you see is etched deeply into your psyche.

In the middle of this I started working on another series called, You - eyeglasses, Me - artcamera.  I can't tell you how many people just shook their heads and said, what the hell are you talking about.  But there were those who understood.  And so I photographed them in their glasses and harddicks.  A no-no under the rules of engagement when doing erotic work, no glasses, unless they were aviator tear drop or mirrored sunglasses.  I just liked men who wore glasses.  A wonderful combination of intelligence and nastiness.

And in the end, the work all folded into itself.  Here we are 20 years after I started this work and it is just as explosive for me today as it was 20 years ago.  There is still nothing like having a man make himself feel good and allowing you to share in his pleasure and ecstasy.