Chris Nelson (photographer)

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Chris Nelson
Edmund Chris Nelson

Died (aged 46)
Known forCo-founder of Bear Magazine

Edmund Chris Nelson (1960 – December 7, 2006)[1] was an American photographer and co-founder of Bear Magazine in the 1980s, was the photographic pioneer in the gay-oriented erotic photography of mature men with hairy bodies and facial hair. His work directly led to the legitimizing of the bear community as a social group.

By profession, Nelson was a photomicroscopy researcher at the University of California's Lawrence Berkeley Labs. He was considered a highly adept microscopist at the Lab, with one colleague there noting, "Chris was the backbone of NCEM, the kind of person that makes LBL great. He was an awesome microscopist who understood advanced electron microscopes like a test pilot understands a jet plane." Many international researchers appreciated Nelson's eye for detail and often requested to work with him given his reputation and skill level.

Together with his then partner, magazine publisher Richard Bulger, Nelson developed a characteristic "look", first in black-and-white portraits of men in San Francisco's biker and leather community, and then, as the bear community grew, in black-and-white erotic portraits of a great number of men who submitted themselves to the magazine as amateur models. He later independently went on to further galvanize the gay bear identity which subsequently evolved over the years into a multitude of bear clubs and related social groups worldwide.

"Chris brought about a whole new gay subculture that allowed bigger, bearded, and hairy gay men to be celebrated. Before that, the emphasis was on the lean, leather jacket and t-shirt wearing 'Castro clones' that dominated the San Francisco scene. Now there was room for everyone, even the more forwardly masculine, non-svelte."[citation needed]

Nelson's photography was the sole subject of a 1991 book The Bear Cult: Photographs by Chris Nelson (Gay Men's Press, London, ISBN 0-85449-161-9), introduced by Edward Lucie-Smith.

At 46, he died of a heart attack in the San Francisco Bay Area in December 7, 2006.[1]

Nelson's book and photography are discussed by author Jack Fritscher in Ron Suresha's 2002 nonfiction book on the bear community, Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions (ISBN 1555835783).[2] Jack Fritscher also comments on Nelson's work in the introduction to The Bear Book 2, edited by Les K. Wright.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2014-08-28.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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