Señor McGuire represents Nashville in charity show of renowned music photographers 

Legendary Nashville photographer Jim McGuire remembers falling in love with music, and country in particular, after hearing Hank Snow's distinctive "Spanish Fireball" as a 12-year-old. Though he later played in a high school band and even served as a concert and album reviewer for The Village Voice in the late '60s and early '70s, it was McGuire's skill with a camera that ushered him into the music world.

Over the last 35 years, "Señor" McGuire's album-cover photos have become a mark of prestige. One of his earliest subjects was a young Guy Clark, looking worn and frayed far beyond his years, luxuriating in outlaw cool. Not surprisingly, McGuire has done every Clark album since except one. John Hartford, Vassar Clements, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, David Bromberg and John Hiatt are just a handful of the others he's photographed on more than 400 album covers.

Some of those photos will be represented Saturday night in a charity benefit at the Lost Boys Center, an event that amounts to the photographic equivalent of a supergroup. The exhibit brings together some 50 photos from the catalogs of McGuire and renowned music photographers Baron Wolman, Henry Diltz and Danny Clinch, whose work forms a veritable Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in emulsion.

Wolman's reputation was established through his work for Life and Look long before Jann Wenner made him Rolling Stone's principal photographer in the late '60s. Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Ike & Tina Turner are among his iconic subjects. Diltz, whose four-decade-plus career spans more than 1 million photos, shot the covers of such landmark releases as James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, The Doors' Morrison Hotel and the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album. Bruce Springsteen, Tupac Shakur, The Smashing Pumpkins and Björk are among Danny Clinch's roster of photographs, and he not only provided photos for various Foo Fighters discs but played harmonica on the single "Another Round" and the live version of "Stacked Actors."

All attended the birth of various chapters in popular music history, from the tumult of late Sixties rock to the alternative Nineties rock and rap scenes. For McGuire's part, he chronicled Music City's fertile bohemian days in the early 1970s, the origins of today's Americana movement.

"I came to Nashville at a particularly good time in terms of the music and my work," McGuire remembers. "In the early '70s there was so much going on, and I've always been a student of country and bluegrass. That was what first drew me to the music as a fan. The musicians were especially open and gracious, and I'd already gotten to know many of them by attending festivals, shooting them at events and doing reviews in New York.

"The labels were wide open then and interested. I shot everyone who came through the door in those days, even though country and bluegrass were my primary personal interest."

Asked how the art has evolved over the years, McGuire calls the shift from vinyl albums to digital CDs the single greatest change that's affected music photographers over the years.

"For a long time the labels would send you to places like Arizona to shoot location scenes, and you would think in terms of grand concepts," McGuire recalls. "I can remember when all the labels had art directors and art staffs and we'd all get together, sit down and listen to the entire album all the way through, thinking about visuals and ideas that enhanced the project. But with CDs, that sense of scale is limited. Budgets aren't the same and the emphasis has changed dramatically."

Another change McGuire, a proponent of the dramatic imagery and contrast afforded by classic film photography, finally embraced was the hegemony of digital technology. "For a long time I resisted doing digital photography, but I finally had to throw in the towel on that one," McGuire says. "If I hadn't, the labels would simply have gotten someone else. So for the last year or so, I've been shooting digitally."

McGuire's pair of 2007 volumes, Nashville Portraits and Historic Photos of the Opry: Ryman Auditorium 1974, were both widely read and critically acclaimed. After a long stay at the Frist Center, a traveling exhibit of 60 photos culled from Nashville Portraits has been on display in museums around the nation. Though he has numerous shots of country and bluegrass giants dating back 35 years (plus an enormous companion record and CD collection), McGuire says there are still a couple of major names he'd like to photograph.

"I'm a huge fan of Merle Haggard, but for whatever reason our paths have never crossed," McGuire says. "He's certainly one person I'd love to photograph. Another is Mark Knopfler. There's still a few here and there I haven't done yet that I want to do."

Photos by Jim McGuire, Baron Wolman, Henry Diltz and Danny Clinch will be on display at the Lost Boys Center & Gallery, 535 Fourth Ave. S., from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26. McGuire and Wolman are scheduled to attend. All proceeds from the sale of music photos and Lost Boys of Sudan artwork will go to benefit the Lost Boys Foundation.

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