With occasional exceptions, the tools of Chester’s trade are simple: a Nikon F camera, a Canon S90 pocket digital camera, a 20-milimeter lens, and loads of black-and-white film. His expert command of composition is a compelling contrast to the lighthearted subject matter he typically conveys in his work. His reasoning is simple: “Why not take pictures of things that make you smile?” he asks.
That outlook spawned No in America, Chester’s 1986 compendium of prohibitive signs, like one posted outside an Idaho cemetery that reads “No Plastic Flowers During Mowing Season.” He traveled for six years shooting other offbeat signs for the book—signs that conveyed humor, seriousness, philosophy, and artistry. “They’re kind of like yardsticks for human behavior,” he says. (He’s still photographing them today, as evidenced by the “No Drugs or Nuclear Weapons Allowed Inside” sign from the Hard Rock Café in Dublin that graces his online portfolio.)