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Soakup Music Studio, Chicago
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© Edmund Teske Archives/Laurence Bump and Nils Vidstrand, 2001

Edmund Teske
American, Chicago, 1940
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 5 7/8 in.
93.XM.33.1

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This artful grouping of music-related objects functions as a sort of shrine. Framed portraits of musicians hang on the wall behind a viola and a bust of classical composer Richard Wagner. A musician's organization membership book, pieces of correspondence, and a set of smoking pipes personalize the arrangement.

Edmund Teske came across this table in a music studio owned by the parents of his lover, Richard Soakup. Mrs. Soakup gave music lessons and operated the studio, which was built next to the Soakup's suburban Chicago home. Teske was probably drawn to these objects because music was one of his passions: He took saxophone lessons and learned to play the piano in his youth.

This image also reflects Teske's more prosaic documentary approach during a period in which he aimed to make a "portrait" of his hometown. Teske was always drawn to subjects that were more personal to him, especially the environments of people he felt close to. This photograph has an intimate, candid feel to it because of its composition, in which the selection of carefully arranged objects are thrown slightly off-balance by the randomly stacked books and papers to the left. The result demonstrates the interesting duality of Teske's approach: one that is both formal and casual.