Facade, Chicago, Composite with Shirley Berman
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© Edmund Teske Archives/Laurence Bump and Nils Vidstrand, 2001

Edmund Teske
American, Chicago, negatives 1940 and 1956; print 1956
Gelatin silver composite print
3 5/8 x 4 5/8 in.

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This dreamlike image of a female face on the side of a building is the result of two images printed to appear as one. The woman's visage is set against "masculine" elements such as the building's rough exterior, and in the distance, a smokestack and electrical tower. Hanging clothes soften this stark industrial world, and the woman's closed eyes and thoughtful expression set a contemplative mood.

Teske photographed the landscape in 1940 in a steel industry shantytown on the outskirts of Chicago. The image is sandwiched with a 1956 negative portraying Shirley Berman, the wife of Wallace Berman, a Beat movement artist and poet. Both were friends of Teske in Los Angeles; he often used Shirley's portrait in composite pictures as an archetypal female figure.

For Teske, printing old negatives had a nostalgic and symbolic function. The composite photograph created a timeless, if not idealized, world that would otherwise be out of reach with a more conventional photographic approach. This composite image hints at a psychological state: the realm of the imagination.