Earl Colter (born 1913) was Branford’s legendary commercial photographer. He has operated his business out of his home/studio at 158 Montowese Street since 1950. As a member of the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) class of 1936, he pursued the hobby of photography to earn money for medical school. He purchased his first photo studio in East Haven in 1939 and pursued business there until Pearl Harbor changed his life.
He was drafted into the armed services, but the U.S. Army rejected him because he was under weight and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He stayed with the Navy and eventually was stationed in Okinawa where he was the personal photographer to Admiral Hyman Rickover. During this time, he photographed many of the top admirals in the Navy as well as some of the great battleships like the Missouri, the Queen Elizabeth, and the lie de France.
After Earl Colter’s war service, he invested in a photo finishing plant in East Haven, which was a financial failure, so he moved to Branford in 1948. The staple of every photographer’s business is weddings and Earl has covered hundreds of them, as well as thousands of school yearbook pictures, family portraits, and commercial accounts. In the heyday of his business, Earl not only took photographs, but developed film, enlarged and retouched prints, and restored old photos.