Paul Chesley

A Photographic Voyage

Paul Chesley with Keith Lorenz


This memoir of an artist’s life will highlight the best images of his career, from a geisha on a phone in a limousine, to the chromatic lifestyles of Havana, the forbidding ranks of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the faces of post-war Vietnam, and countless other countries he visited.

Press Release


10.5 x 13.5"
Trade Cloth
Publication date: 
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From Bhutan to Bali, from China to the Ukraine, from Micronesia to Cuba, Paul Chesley has photographed not only the romance of illusions but “the magic of reality in thousands of instants,” as said by Joseph Conrad. 

This memoir of an artist’s life will highlight the best images of his career from a geisha on a phone in a limousine, to the chromatic lifestyles of Havana, the forbidding ranks of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the faces of post-war Vietnam and the volcanic island of Iceland plus countless other countries in the past four decades.

Chesley often focuses on the mercurial aspects of cultures in transition. He is drawn to those places where life seems to be on hold for just a fraction of time between the past and the future. His goal has always been the fleeting moments of the present before it is swept away in the never ending tide of history. 

While this book takes us to a score of faraway places, it is not attempting to be an ethnographic record. The accompanying, informal essays and the Introduction by Keith Lorenz intend to furnish a personal vision of history and place. These perspectives do not encourage facts to overwhelm the narrative. The aim of photos and text is to provide a mood, not an explanation.





About the author: 

Paul Chesley is an American photojournalist born in Red Wing, Minnesota, who is best known for his work as a photographer for the National Geographic Society.

He was introduced to the art of photography by his father at the age of three when he was given his first camera. He grew up taking pictures on family vacations and developing film in his dad’s darkroom. Chesley’s early work focused on natural subjects and landscapes, and in the early 1970s he began taking photography classes at Colorado Mountain College as well as participating in workshops at the Center of the Eye in Aspen, Colorado. Chesley also participated as a student on a National Geographic workshop led by Robert Gilka, the society’s director of photography.

He began shooting assignments for National Geographic in 1975 and has since completed more than 35 projects for the society. His photography has focused primarily on people and cultures in Oceania, Asia and Europe. In 1984, Chesley helped found Photographers/Aspen, a photo collective of four National Geographic photographers. In 1989, Chesley met and became friends with Hunter S. Thompson while producing a story on Aspen for Life magazine.

In an interview with Stephen Metcalf for Accent Thai magazine, Chesley stated that he doesn’t consider himself a schooled photographer. "Almost everything I’ve learned has come from my experience in the field," he says. According to John Agnone, National Geographic book editor, Chesley "...Takes graphically strong images that communicate the essence of his subjects - and he makes it look easy." When asked to describe Chesley’s style of photography, Carole Lee, a former project coordinator for Chesley stated "Paul’s sensitivity captures the gentle spirit in people." Fellow Minnesotan and National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg said of Paul, "With so many photographers out there constantly boasting about their work, Paul contradicts the profession. Chesley holds his projects very dear. He goes about his work in a quiet but dignified and steadfast way. And most of all, he lets his work speak for itself."

Paul Chesley was honored with the inclusion of his work in the 100 year retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Solo exhibitions of his work have appeared in museums in London, Tokyo, New York and Honolulu. His greatest enjoyment is on international projects, capturing the lives of the people, cultures and beauty of Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. Chesley's photographic essays are regularly featured in magazines including Life, Fortune, and GEO. Recent books with his work have been Passage to Vietnam; Mothers and DaughterS; Bangkok; The Circle of Life; Thailand: Seven Days in the Kingdom; Indonesia: A Voyage Through the Archipelago; and Malaysia: Heart of Southeast Asia. He has also participated in A Day in the Life of China, as well as in a number of other Day in the Life books. Chesley was the sole photographer for Rocky Mountains: Pillars of a Continent and Continental Divide, both book projects for the National Geographic Society; and Minnesota and Colorado, by Random House Publications.

A new website,, shows the diverse nature of his photographic projects in Asia over the years. 


Keith Lorenz grew up in Manhattan. He attended Harvard where he majored in European history. He hitch hiked out West, and to Mexico, Central America and Cuba from the age of seventeen. Two years in the US Army in Germany were followed by a year on the Left Bank in Paris. Returning to New York he sought a newspaper job but luck provided him with a one way ticket to Thailand.

After working as a copywriter for Grant Advertising International in Bangkok he slipped into journalism during the Vietnam war. He covered events in Indochina and all over Asia for fifteen years, working for NBC News, Voice of America, Mutual Broadcasting, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He later worked for UN Radio in NYC and finally, in the post-Vietnam period, as the Southeast Asia correspondent for the New York Journal of Commerce.

In the mid-1980s Keith moved to Honolulu where he worked as a writer at the East-West Center on Asia/Pacific issues. A special interest has been Burma; he has long reported on civil war in that country. September and October usually find him at his farm in mid-coast Maine.

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