The River Inside on exhibit in Nashville, Tennessee

The River Inside
Oct 03 - Nov 30, 2008
The Tennessee State Museum
Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee photographer John Guider stepped into his 16-foot canoe on Spencer Creek in Williamson County five years ago and began his incredible journey. He paddled down the Harpeth, Cumberland, Tennessee, and Ohio rivers, paddling the mighty Mississippi and arriving at his final destination of New Orleans. The River Inside, opening October 3 at the Tennessee State Museum, tells the story of Guider’s solo journey through the camera’s eye.

Guider, who completed the upper portions of the Mississippi in three subsequent solo canoe trips taken from 2005 to 2007, captured more than 10,000 scenes of America’s waterways on film during his trips. He then selected and processed 75 platinum prints representative of the people and places he encountered along the way. The images offer a revealing perspective on the natural and controlled inland waterways that bisect the nation.

A short documentary film, distilling the essence of Guider’s trips, produced by Brittany Hailes and Coke Sams of Nashville’s Ruckus Film, will complement the exhibition. The film underscores the immense physical and mental fortitude necessary for enduring such a journey. Guider experienced powerful storms, multitudes of mosquitoes, serene sunrises and a variety of wildlife along the way. He often paddled 8 to 10 hours a day and was sometimes alone for 5 to 6 days at a time; the quiet, almost haunting solitude of Guider’s journeys are vividly evident in the resulting photographs.

In a journal chronicling his daily routine, Guider recorded the life he observed along the riverbanks and the details of what he felt were narrow escapes from lifethreatening situations. Artifacts from the trips, along with his canoe, river maps, and camera equipment will also be included in the exhibition. The exhibit’s title, The River Inside, was drawn from the importance of rivers as prime conduits of vital commodities, and as overlooked by-ways. It speaks to the resonance between life-sustaining water sources and human beings.

A book authored by Guider, which shares the same title — The River Inside, is being released in conjunction with the exhibition. Published by Tennessee’s FRP Books, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwestern/Great American, Inc. and designed by McNeely, Pigott & Fox Public Relations, Guider’s book is a compelling narrative of his life-changing journey, as well as a work of art, with high-impact photographs and graphics. With a cast of colorful characters, a series of near-deadly mishaps, a respect for the Mississippi as a wonder of nature and of commerce, and the wit and wisdom of a true poet, The River Inside is a one-of-a-kind tale with an important message: To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, “The seas are around us, but the river is in us.”

During the 40 years which Guider has spent in Nashville, he has played a significant role as part of the city’s creative community. A celebrated commercial photographer, he has been engaged by many of Music City’s advertising agencies and artists. During his extensive career he has earned numerous accolades and awards, including the Silver Medal given by the Nashville Advertising Federation, a Certificate of Design Excellence from Print’s Regional Design Annual, the Excalibur Award from the American Cancer Society and two Awards of Excellence from the Communication Arts Photography Journal.

His work has been honored in Graphis’s prestigious Poster Annual and he has received multiple American Advertising Federation Addy Awards. The River Inside is presented in part by Ingram Barge Company of Nashville and continues through November 30th at the museum. Located at Fifth and Deaderick Streets in downtown Nashville, the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and is free to the public.

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