Tyler Chartier: Fine Woodworking

May 8, 2018
Photographer Spotlight

San Francisco-based photographer Tyler Chartier hasn’t spent his whole life behind the lens. Like many, he discovered his love of photography after following a different path.

Tyler was initially convinced he would spend his life shaping wood and pursued a career in furniture making at the School of Fine Woodworking at Red Rocks Community College in Golden, Colorado. His capstone endeavor was the creation of a custom toolbox in the style of an attaché case. His instructor encouraged him to submit his project to Fine Woodworking, the premier publication for woodworkers and furniture makers.

His project was not only picked up by the publication but also showcased on the back cover of the magazine, a coveted spot always reserved for highlighting an interesting project with emphasis on celebrating the craftsmanship involved.

It’s iconic in this industry, practically the bible for woodworkers. It was an incredible honor to be published, especially at such an early stage in my career as a woodworker.

Back cover of Fine Woodworking featuring attache toolchest by Tyler Chartier

A blast from the past: Tyler's wooden toolchest featured on the back cover of Fine Woodworking in 2007.

In addition to the back cover, Tyler also wrote a small article for the publication detailing his process and efforts. 

Tyler Chartier how-to article for Fine Woodworking

Tyler's project illustrated in an exploded-view diagram for Fine Woodworking in 2007.

He met his future wife, a photography student, in a darkroom (of all places) in film developing class while in college. After graduating, his wife launched her photography business and Tyler went on to spend 10 years as a professional woodworker.

Tyler considered starting a side gig as a photographer as well, having been exposed to photography so consistently through his wife. Eventually, he branched out into it and as things gradually picked up with his camera, it was only a short time before he shuttered his woodworking business, trading chisels and hand planes for lenses and light stands.

This change grew from a slow realization that though he absolutely loves the finished product of woodworking, he was less enthusiastic about the process of creating those things. Once he started making images, he found the opposite was true. He was engrossed in the creative process and the many aspects of image production.

It’s sustainable to throw your entire life energy into something where you’re completely in love with the process, less so when you’re only in love with the result. That feels like a hell of a lot of work to get to that end result, which are just moments compared to the whole process.

These days, Tyler spends more time crafting images than wood. Woodworking is still a passion of his, a part of his story, but having a family and a commercial photography business leaves him with little time for passion projects.

He kept in touch with many friends and connections in the woodworking business, including Michael Cullen, a local woodworker who is quite famous in the industry. There have been several opportunities where Fine Woodworking has needed some photographs to accompany his articles, and Michael recommended Tyler for the job.

Full spread photograph of a bed by Tyler Chartier for Fine Woodworking

Tyler has been given two assignments so far, including one 2-page spread (above) that you can read here. He has loved feeling connected to that world once more.

Working as a photographer for Fine Woodworking and being able to talk with the incredibly talented contributing writers and woodworkers is a fabulous way for me to stay connected with a past chapter of my life, to touch that world a bit.

He’d like to continue working with the publication because of his intrinsic connection to their subject matter, which holds a special place in his heart.

It’s neat when life comes full circle, which doesn’t happen too often.

He’s optimistic that Fine Woodworking will want to continue their relationship as well. After all, people there remember him as “that toolbox guy.”


Client: Fine Woodworking

Senior Editor: Jon Binzen

See more of Tyler at tylerchartierphotography.com!

Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page.