Page 159, or The Marvelous and Serendipitous Tale of a Photogram

One of the seventeen volumes in the Life Library of Photography, with a publishing date of 1970, is entitled, “The Art of Photography”.* It has been, by far, my most used volume in the set and always has been since the early 70s. On page 159 appears a photogram attributed to Edmund Teske and for some reason it attracted my attention to an unusual degree (probably because I was taken by the creative possibilities it represented in my photographic youth, nearly 50 years ago). I see that my bookmark of that page remains to this day — I only recently dislodged these books from storage after many years.

Teske’s piece, shown to the left here, is entitled, “Greetings from San Franciso”. By projecting light through the original postcard onto printing paper, he was able to expose a print that simultaneously revealed both sides of the postcard.

At the time, I was employed as an investigator/auditor with a Congressional agency of the Federal Government by day, madly doing and studying photography in evenings and on weekends. Fast forward now several months to sometime in 1971.

One day one of my colleagues approached me, knowing of my interest in photography, and told me that his fiancée was teaching at a private school where her best new friend was a photographer/artist on a teaching assignment, as an artist-in-residence. We all arranged to get together, and that is how I met Sandra.

Somewhat later, I was visiting with my new artist friend, Sandra, and she was talking about some people in her circle of friends she thought I might like to meet. When she mentioned Teske (she always referred to him and addressed him by his last name), I sat bolt upright and told her about seeing this simple but remarkable piece in the “The Art of Photography” book. So not only did she tell me that she was the sender of the postcard **, but she also immediately grabbed the telephone to give him a call, coming back with the report that he told her he was happy to receive visitors soon, but at the moment he was in the bathtub “pondering the densities” of the soapy water he was immersed in. A bit later we arrived at Teske’s storefront studio, in what would be the first of many such visits. The place, with draped and hidden front windows, was like a past-century museum or even mausoleum, almost too dark to get any kind of photographic exposure. But Edmund was warm and jovial, and I eventually took classes from him through his relationship with UCLA. Later on, my friend Ken became his darkroom assistant for a time. Many other adventures ensued, perhaps to be documented here and there throughout this site.

Some of my occasional captures of Edmund are shown here.

*Just as a curious and trivial side comment, I notice that my book shows a publication date of 1970, but the Teske piece within is dated 1971.  Oh, never mind …

** The message on the postcard in Edmund’s image?: “Dear Teske – I am in SF taking a class from Todd Walker on gum bichromate. Several of your students are here & all are saying nice things about you and your work.” (signed, including what I came to learn to be Sandra’s usual self-styled happy face)

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