In the living room of his Woods Hole home, Chester shuffles pages of proofs from the book across a coffee table. Many of the same images hang framed and matted in rows on the high walls around him. Chester—dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, glasses perched on his nose—explains the origins of each photo and, in the process, traces the trajectory of his career.
As a kid in Springfield, Massachusetts, Chester took his first pictures with a Kodak Brownie camera. He didn’t get serious about photography until he joined the Peace Corps as a trainee in 1967 and bought professional camera set-up for his looming travels, which ultimately fell through. But he kept practicing his craft and studied the images in Life magazine, National Geographic, and the Saturday Evening Post. He developed an affinity for the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, Ken Heyman, and Walker Evans among others. And like these kindred spirits, Chester had no ambitions of staying cooped up inside a studio: he was solely interested in photojournalistic street photography.
In 1972, after a stint as Director of Photography for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in New York City, Chester spent the rest of his career as a freelancer for wire services, trade publications, PR agencies, and countless other outlets. He has often put words to his pictures as well, penning travel stories for The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications. He parlayed a 1978 cross-country trip into a gig photographing Dateline America, a book of essays by the late CBS newscaster Charles Kuralt. In the ensuing years, he continued to photograph and document his travels, culminating in books and other projects like the “Shanghai: In Black and White” exhibition. After settling in Woods Hole in 2002, Chester began teaching courses related to photography at Lesley University and Cape Cod Community College among other places. He is teaching a course at Falmouth Academy this summer.