COUNTRY music photographer and storyteller John Elliot will bring some of the most famous of his shots to Tamworth for a special exhibition in Festival HQ for the Tamworth Country Music Festival next year.
Mr Elliott says he will have a series of portraits taken during his last 30 years in the country music industry to put up in the foyer of Ray Walsh House when it transforms into Festival Central in January.
The exhibition is titled Gifted Country and the reason behind the name, Mr Elliott said, is a life long love affair with all things country music.
“It’s my way of saying thank you to the artists for the music,” Mr Elliott said.
“I fall in love with everyone I photograph. And the older I’ve got, the less gear I carry and the better my picture have become.”
Mr Elliott remembers his first Tamworth Country Music Festival, hitchhiking into town with his trusty camera slung over one shoulder in 1978.
“I’ve only missed three since then. Even my kids have grown up at the festival,” he said.
Photographing today’s big names of country music back before fame hit them, complete with long hair, tight jeans and even tighter pockets, John said the pictures are about communicating the subject’s identity.
“It’s really about what’s going on in their eyes, rather than what they’re wearing or what guitar they’re playing,” he said.
“Every photo has a great enduring story behind it.”
Those stories will be the feature of talks and workshops that John will conduct during festival time, believing that the story behind the artist is as important as the image itself.
An image close to his heart is one that shows country music legend Slim Dusty breaking his tour to share a moment in Broken Hill with good friend Joe Daly, who wrote the iconic Slim song Trumby.
“It was incredible to be able to photograph that meeting and that friendship. To me that is a magic moment.”
John was Slim’s preferred photographer for over 20 years, providing images for 20 album covers for the late, great musician, and still enjoys an enduring friendship with Slim’s wife Joy McKean and daughter Anne Kirkpatrick.
Business events officer Catherine Burton said that Tamworth council was excited about adding the photographic exhibition to the 2013 festival.
“A photo tells a thousand words, and these images will provide a great insight into the artists,” Ms Burton said.