Jim McGuire has been making portraits of musicians, mostly in his Nashville studio, since 1972. He's the first-call photographer of Music City, and has been for a long time. As the great Chet Flippo wrote in his Nashville Skyline column for CMT.com, in the opening lines of a nice homage to McGuire in 2007:
Music photography is not easy. Good music photography, I should say. As someone who dabbled in it in a younger incarnation, I can testify to that. Shooting concerts well is hard, but not nearly as difficult as doing good portraiture. Capturing the essence of an artist in a still photograph has been done well by very few people.
The best one to do so in Nashville is Jim McGuire.
To use an example at hand, McGuire’s stunning 1975 image of Guy and Susanna Clark graces the cover of our Texas music issue. (Another image featuring Guy and his buddy Townes Van Zandt goofing with a pair of stuffed dog props, appears inside the magazine.) “I have always had a thing for black and white,” McGuire explains in the artist statement on his website. “Color was too literal . . . when you create a black and white image, you are not just recording it on film, you have the obligation to bring your own vision and experience to the process.” He has spent his career training that expertise on another of his passions: “Discovering country music changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined,” he wrote.
Since many of the best musicians working in Nashville over the years, within the country genre and beyond it, are Texans, a good portion of McGuire’s ongoing Nashville Portraits series features iconic natives of the Lone Star state. He agreed to share his favorites with us, as a companion to the Texas Music Issue and also because his impressive archive is up for sale. Some are color portraits taken on location in places like hallowed Lukenbach, but true to form, most of these are simple black-and-whites in front of the classic hand-painted backdrop in his studio.
Here they are, McGuire’s Texas Nashville Portraits.
Just out of curiosity, I asked McGuire about his favorite song. “If you’re makin’ me choose one,” he told me, “it would be one of Guy’s.” This one:
View more of Jim McGuire's work on his website.