Shooting Nashville's Musical Heroes

Travelling from Belfast to Nashville, guitarist Ken Haddock lifts a camera to document the vibrancy and warmth of the American city

Ken Haddock's performances are a staple of Belfast's musical calendar but his debut as a photographer comes this week with an exhibition opening at the Oh Yeah Music Centre.

The photographs were captured when Haddock and fellow Belfast musicians Ben Glover, Eilidh Patterson, Anthony Toner and Bap Kennedy performed in a sold-out St Patrick’s Day concert as part of the annual Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival.

The annual concert is staged as part of Belfast’s Sister City agreement with Nashville, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The photography exhibition coincides with the Sister Cities International Conference in Belfast's Waterfront Hall, which takes place outside the United States for the first time this year.

'I was thrilled to take part in the Festival, in Belfast and in Nashville back in March,' says Haddock. 'The fact that I would be sharing the stage with Nancy Griffith was very special for me as a singer-songwriter.

'Music has always played a massive part in my life and has been my profession for the last 16 years. I studied photography in the 1990s, and I remain passionate about it. I'm currently in the process of growing it as a full-time business.

'This trip had me salivating at the prospect of putting my camera to work on the streets of Nashville during the day, my guitar to work on the stages of Nashville in the evenings and my camera back to work again in the early bar hours of the Nashville morning. 

'We arrived in Nashville after a long flight at 2am Sunday morning and, as we would be on a flight home the following Saturday, I realized that this would be the only Sunday I would have an opportunity to see and photograph Nashville's Lord’s Day worshippers doing their thing. There was no way I was going to sleep through that.

'At 7am I was outside the hotel with my camera bag fully charged. I asked the first taxi driver I could find to take me to a black gospel church. 'Which one?’ ‘Any one’. I arrived minutes later at Hopewell Baptist Church.

'After a few introductions and explanations I was invited to be a part of the service and have the freedom to photograph.  It was something I couldn't have prepared for. The warmth, friendliness, openness, the very compelling, undeniable, spiritual experience and the wonderful, wonderful music: I was blown away.'

Ken Haddock's Nashville Photography exhibition is on display at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast, from July 31 - August 7, then at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, August 8 - September 5.

The Belfast-Nashville St Patrick's Day Concert is broadcast as part of a two-hour BBC Radio Ulster Nashville Special, hosted by Ralph MacLean, on July 31, 8pm – 10pm.