Charles Kyle Archer was born in Bellaire, Ohio, and studied accounting at Ohio State and Drake Universities. After taking a course in photography at Columbia Art School, he pursued it as a hobby and subsequently joined the Salon Club of America. Archer was very active in the Academy of Science and Art of Pittsburgh, serving several terms on the Academy Council, four years as secretary-treasurer, chairman of the Print Committee in 1926, and twelve years as president of the Photographic Section. He was also elected to associate membership in the Los Angeles Salon of Photography and the Oval Table Society of New York City, to which he donated his photography collection, not including his own prints.
Archer worked as a photographer for the Carnegie Steel Company and was head of the photography department at the United States Steel Company for more than twenty years. His personal photography was influenced by the soft-focus images of the pictorialist period in which he worked, and he was particularly accomplished in making prints with the complex bromoil process. Archer's prizewinning photographs were exhibited in Budapest, Madrid, Vienna, and throughout the United States. In March 1933 he wrote an eloquent introduction to the Twentieth Salon of Photographic Art for Carnegie Magazine, in which he stated: "It is to be hoped that you who read this story and view the exhibition will fully realize that you are not looking at a collection of indifferent snapshots...Prints are shown which may cause some emotional reaction, ask a sense of humor, or stimulate the intellect. And sometimes it may be difficult to interpret the author's meaning. To all who may find it pleasing it is dedicated as a work of devotion by the small group in Pittsburgh who annually labor to make the exhibition possible."
In 1940 Archer left Pennsylvania for Arizona to care for his brother Harry, an accomplished musician who was in poor health. He died at age eighty-five, one year after his brother. The brothers willed $125,000 to the Carnegie Institute of Technology and $30,000 in United States Steel stock to the Academy of Science and Art of Pittsburgh. The income from the stock provided for two Academy travel lectures annually and three prizes of one hundred dollars each to be awarded annually to exhibitors at the Pittsburgh Salon of Photographic Art.