"Shooting From The Heart"

Photographs by Marty Stuart

This appeared in the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center's Art 'n Facts - September 2001

Originally scheduled to open last December, this collection of photographs taken by legendary entertainer and country music ambassador Marty Stuart is currently making its debut here at the Museum and will continue through the end of September.

Although widely recognized as one of the preeminent performers in the industry today, few people are equally aware that Marty is a very fine photographer. Shooting primarily in black and white, he uses a 35mm Nikon camera to produce images that are spontaneous recordings of the people that have touched his life and music.

Marty's touring career started when he was twelve years old. It was this early exposure to the performing world of country music and all the characters and experiences swirling around him that crafted his eye into a remarkable chronicler of the human spirit.

During his early years, he lived in Nashville with Opry legend Lester Flatt and his wife Gladys. He toured with Lester's band and, as he states in his book Pilgrims: Sinners, Saints & Prophets. "I had total access to the wit and wisdom of some of the greatest architects of American music." It was a remarkable beginning to a remarkable career.

Another passage from the book reveals early beginnings of his interest in photograpy:

"One day, one of the veterans in Lester's band made the comment, 'I'd give anything if I'd had a camera and a tape recorder when we played that show with Elvis and the rest of them. Think of what I'd have now.' I took his statement to heart. I asked Momma for a camera and she gave me a Kodak Instamatic for Christmas. I carried it along with me and proceeded to terrorize anybody that had ever sang, written, or played a country song. It was no more than a hobby to me. I simply took snapshots that went along with the stories that followed me home from the road."

The "hobby" that Marty speaks of has, over time, gathered its own life and formed itself into another dimension of an already dynamic artist. While a lot of the images are of recognizable personalities, many are of the fans, people on the street, regular folks, and his family and friends. A few are portraits taken outside the music world. A series taken of Native Americans at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is particularly striking.

The thirty-one photographs on view were hand-selected by Marty and printed in Nashville just for this exhibit. I hope you will take this opportunity to see them.

By Ned Crouch

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