And it’s difficult to put a box around Chamberlain.
Mark Phineas Chamberlain was born in Dubuque, Iowa, an only son, slated to the join his father in the Insurance brokerage his grandfather had started.
Chamberlain was struggling with his father’s plans for his future, when Vietnam intervened.
“Two days after I got my master’s degree on Feb. 4, 1967, I was drafted into the Army,” Chamberlain said.
Both events are memorialized on “Private Property’s” chest by a master’s tassel and dog tags.
After basic training, Chamberlain expected to end up in Vietnam.
Instead he was sent to Korea.
He took some language and history classes. Then one day, he picked up a camera and joined a military crafts program.
“It was a formative time in my life,” Chamberlain said. “I spent all of 1968 in Korea where I watched the Martin Luther King and the Bobby Kennedy assassinations. I saw the Chicago Convention. From my perspective the country was falling apart, due to a war where I almost became fodder.”
“I feel a certain sense of obligation toward the men who didn’t make it back,” Chamberlain said.
By the time Chamberlain got out of the army, his father had died. The pressure was off.
“I decided to pursue what I had a passion for,” Chamberlain said.
In 1969, he packed his 33 mm Pentax in an MG Midget and headed west, with the notion of opening a photographic gallery.
He stopped in Los Angeles. Hated it. Visited his sister Belle and brother-in-law Doug Chalmers in Laguna. Loved it.
He met the late Bea Whittelsey and he took photographs for her for the Historical Society.
But he had to eat and support his wife and son, now living in Santa Ana — so he painted houses, picking up commercial photography jobs when he could.
In 1972, a commercial client asked whether Chamberlain would process film for them. It required a facility, which Chamberlain found by accident.
“I was answering an ad for a desk and I walked in here and fell in love,” Chamberlain said.
The client backed out, but Burchfield and Chamberlain moved ahead with their dream of a studio/gallery, which lasted for 14 years before their paths parted.
“Jerry has made a beautiful career exhibiting his work,” Chamberlain said. “But the gallery activities are more important to me.
“I seldom show my own work.”
Instead, the gallery is a forum for his dedication to the environment, to art, to humanity — and any other windmill that he thinks needs a tilt.
BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 380-4321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.