Adrain Chesser is wildly talented, creative and so emotionally connected to his work that it makes it all the more powerful and mesmerizing to view. I met Adrain in Portland at Photolucida years ago, found out we both shared Seattle as our home, and as our paths crossed more often, I became more enamored of him, and of his work. Raw, powerful and honest. His work grabs you and dares you to look away. It makes you think, participate and try to understand not only his vision but yours in it. His images makes me work to engage, makes me commit to an understanding. Sometimes uncomfortable, but always worthwhile to dig around and find a new part of me. This new series is what he was showing this April in Portland, but please log onto his website to get the full vision and depth of his commitment to his craft.
“orange blossoms, fire ants and the tyranny of memory”
In 2000 I decided that I would return to where I grew up, to photographically document what it was like in to live in a small town in South Florida at the turn of the millennium. After shooting for a month, deeply disturbing memories from my childhood began to surface, which triggered a nervous breakdown. When I returned home I went into therapy. It occurred to me that if I could make a photographic representation of these specific events from my childhood, I could own them outside of myself as an object and that these memories would no longer hold a shadowy power over my subconscious.
From 2001 to 2011 I returned to Florida at least once a year to make images with friends and family. I would either recreate specific events or I would stay present in my process for images to arise that could hold the emotional weight of memories that remained half shrouded. In the end what I remembered was my resilience and defiance as a child in the face of an overwhelmingly large and seemingly unsafe world. What that came to mean for me as an adult, was the realization that the spectres of my past had no real substance, as if they were only made up of vapor and light.
About Adrain Chesser –
I was born on May 19, 1965 in Okeechobee, Florida. I was groomed to be a Pentecostal preacher, studying the bible and taking piano and organ lessons. I spoke in tongues. I learned to cast out demons. I was gay. I left home at the first opportunity.
A friend gave me a camera and I fell in love with light and image.
Another friend gave me an enlarger and supplies for a dark room.
In a closet under a stairwell, I taught myself how to make a photograph.
I made cash for photographic supplies in many ways. I worked in restaurants as a dish washer, busboy, waiter. I wrestled alligators at a Seminole Indian reservation. I was a santa for charity. I have assisted gardeners, photographers, and drug-dealers. I hustled sex for money.
Photography has been my highest spiritual practice.
It is no coincidence that at a time when I was abandoning the god and the religious dogma I was raised with, I should discover photography as a means to interpret my life.
In my early twenties the practice of photography gave form and structure to my brave new world, a life that was unhinged from the grounding forces of family and home and was fueled by alcohol drugs and sex.
During my thirties it quite literally saved my life.
Thru the ritualistic nature of image making, I healed deep-seated emotional wounds from my childhood that had manifested as physical disease in my body.
Now, in my mid forties, free from childhood demons, I find my life to be full of moments of transcendence. States of grace elevated above the mundane, moments of such inexpressible beauty that more often than not I am brought to tears by the heart breaking knowledge that comes from the temporal nature of life. The knowing that life is fragile and fleeting, that one moment is always dying to the next.
I have lied, cheated, and stolen so I could feel the erotic rush of watching an image magically appear on what was a blank piece of paper. I’m learning to cast “in” demons. I’ve always felt I would do almost anything to know the power of holding a split second in my hands, and look at it as long and as lovingly as I care to, to capture something as elusive as an emotion, and to feel the power of that emotion possess me each time I look at it. To feel the electric jolt of telling a lie convincingly and above all else, to experience the awe-inspiring, god-like power of creating and witnessing a truth.
To see more of Adrain’s work, please log onto his website.