Born in 1925 in Portland, Oregon, Walter Chappell studied architectural drawing at Benson Polytechnical School and piano and musical composition at Ellison-White conservatory of Music.
From 1943-46, he served in the U.S. 13 th Airborne Division.
Chappell’s friendship with Minor White, which began in 1942, was renewed in San Francisco in 1947, and although his creative interests would later turn to photography, his main pursuits then were music, painting, and writing.
Logue and Glyphs, a book of his poetry, was published in 1948. In 1952, he attended the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin Fellowship in Arizona.
In 1957, Chappell settled in Rochester, New York, to study photographic printmaking technique with Minor White. Here he wrote and edited for Aperture magazine and assisted White in early intensive workshops.
Gestures of Infinity, a collection of images and poetry was produced in 1957.
In 1960, Under The Sun, images by Walter Chappell, Nathan Lyons, and Syl Labrot, was published by George Braziller.
Chappell founded the Association of Heliographers Gallery Archive in New York and directed its activities until 1965.