"Welcome", from the series "Gay Campground", 2005 – 2011, Archival Pigment Prints, 20x24"

“Welcome”, from the series “Gay Campground”, 2005 – 2011, Archival Pigment Print, 20×24″

Adrain Chesser

When I discovered that the Baptist Campground where I had camped as a boy scout was now a gay campground I was in awe. As a boy growing up in the backwoods of Florida I felt that I was the only person in the world afflicted with same sex attraction. I didnít even have words for my feelings and I was terrified of being found out and cast out.

As an adult, I was giddy with the realization that my childhood fantasies and prayers for a safe zone had manifested in the very space that was once a source of torment. The fact that this haven exists in what is still a hostile redneck environment gave me hope and gave me pause. Returning to the campground, I discovered a group of ìgood ole boysî who, despite the dangers outside the gates, were ready to play and willing to be subjects in my photographs.

In this body of work I am intentionally revisiting childhood memories, restaging and reclaiming the stories that make up my formative years. Owning the stories in a new way, in the physical realm as a photograph, transforms how I experience these memories. Through the process of illuminating my past I have nullified a constant source of fear and a nagging sense of unease that has impacted my life. These little rituals, made with friends and strangers alike, aim to do more than just reclaim a lost childhood; they strive to show the humanity in all of us, outcasts or not.

I (Adrain Chesser) 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.

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. Iím learning to cast ìinî demons. Iíve 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.

Adrain Chesser (Seattle, WA) attended the Santa Fe Art Institute from 2004-2005 and exhibited his work throughout the U.S. Selected solo exhibitions include Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants and The Tyranny of Memory at Victoria Price Contemporary (Santa Fe, NM), El Ojo Que Ves: Photographs of Mexico City at Price Dewey Galleries (Santa Fe, NM), and I Have Something To Tell You at the Houston Center for Photography (Houston, TX), Santa Fe Art Institute (Santa Fe, NM), and Blue Sky Gallery (Portland, OR). His work has been shown in group exhibitions at the Houston Center for Photography (Houston, TX), Pacific Northwest College of Art (Portland, OR), Santa Fe Art Institute and Plan B evolving Arts – CCA (both in Santa Fe, NM). Chesserís work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Portland Museum of Fine Art, and the Vincent Price Collection at East Los Angeles College.