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

Edmund Teske
American, Chicago, 1940
Gelatin silver print
9 9/16 x 7 5/8 in.

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All of these intricate parts patterned and designed to fit harmoniously again, to function again for the beauty of motion. Richard was in her and I was under her. Richard was out, I was in and Richard was under. Deep in the guts of her intensity and passion, with the inroads of pain, we loved the same commanding mistress.
-Edmund Teske

In a 1940 letter to his brother, Edmund Teske described this scene, which presents the physical and seductive qualities that he saw in both his car and his teenage lover, Richard Soakup. The image reflects Teske's outlook on human identity, particularly his own fluid approach to sexuality and the idea that a person can embody both masculine and feminine qualities.

Soft light draws attention to the youth's curly hair and lithe body, which form a visual contrast to the man's work he is engaged in: repairing a car and getting dirty. For Teske, the male body was as worthy of idealization as the female nude. Soakup is portrayed in a candid way that evokes his sexuality and their intimacy.

After moving from Chicago-where this picture was made-to Los Angeles, Teske studied a branch of Eastern philosophy, Vedantic Hinduism, that supported his progressive outlook on human identity. In addition, it taught Teske to believe in fate and chance. Years later, he liked to point out that in this photograph the first four numbers on the car's license plate, 1652, were the same as his Los Angeles street address on Harvard Boulevard.