Nashville International Airport > Art & Music > Exhibits > Carter Andrews: Music City Faces

Carter Andrews: Music City Faces

Faces of Nashville

February 2015 - February 2016
Concourse C Food and Retail Court


About Music City Faces by Carter Andrews

"I feel like a fisherman,” Carter Andrews said. “When I head out to fish for portraits of strangers in the wild, there’s no telling what I’ll come back with.” Starting in 2011, Andrews was determined to photograph everyone he encountered, no matter the circumstance. “I wanted to capture everyone, with no preconceived filter about what would make a great portrait.” 
“I learned a lot in those early months. For example, it takes at least as much time to develop and publish photos as it does to take them. As time went on, the nature of the light became more and more important. By the time I finished the first year of shooting, I had gone from looking for people to hunting for good light, and waiting for people to wander into that light.” 
After asking more than 7,000 people for permission to take their portraits, Andrews has learned to be philosophical about the quest. “I’d say 90 percent of people give me permission. If I get a ‘no,’ I rarely argue. I remember only one time when I got someone to change his or her mind and the result was a great shot.”
“A lot of strategy goes into making ‘the ask.’ When I see a group of people, I always start with the person I think is most likely to say ‘yes.’ I never start with the most beautiful or striking. I pretend I don’t see her or him until that person comes up naturally in the rotation. I try to be totally neutral, but kind and encouraging. I don’t want my energy to influence the shot. If I create expectations, I get poses which look plastic. I try to finish shooting 30 seconds after I ask, so there’s no time to pose,” Andrews said.
Andrews shoots with the legendary Canon 85mm 1.2 portrait lens. “The lens isolates the subject from the background by rendering only about three inches deep in focus. I focus on the eyes, knowing that the ears will already be blurred. Photographers revere this lens because it renders out-of-focus areas (known as the ‘bokeh’) beautifully.” The resulting style is an unusual mix of high definition and blur. “I want viewers to start with a general impression of dignity in the eyes of these Music City Faces, and then be drawn into the details. The last impression is hopefully achieved by the overall feel of the picture.” 
Andrews lives in Nashville, Tenn. He is a community activist working as executive director of the Nelson Andrews Leadership Lodge, named for his father.


To see more photos and to read Andrews’ stories about these portraits, visit: or


Arts at the Airport receives funding for the visual arts from the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA) and the Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC). The Flying Solo Exhibition Series is funded under an agreement with TAC. For more information about Arts at the Airport, please call (615) 275-1614 or send email to