John Guider is a naturalist and internationally recognized photographer whose work is featured in national museums, prestigious corporate and private collections, as well as in the Art in Embassies program. However, that is not how his early career began. In this podcast, we explore his early roots and how his present-day water journeys, first by canoe and later in a 14-foot rowboat with a sail (that he built himself) have brought him tremendous satisfaction as he explores and brings history to life including how he retraced the 1000-mile river route of John Donelson’s founding of Nashville. The trip was so impressive, Nashville Public Television recounted the journey in a documentary. John’s book, “Voyage of the Adventure,” highlights his journey and often illuminates the contrast and similarities between life then and now. Join us to meet this adventure seeker, explorer, and documentarian, who looks at and celebrates life through a different lens.
How do you define yourself?
Well, I’m human. I guess I consider myself a little — I don’t know, shy, but reserved and quiet, but very, very curious about life and all the good stuff.
You seem to have a quest to recreate or understand history in such a different way, why is that so important to you?
I’ve always liked to look backwards, to see how our forefathers did it, and it’s sort of trying to see if where we have come is better or worse. Are we happier? Obviously, we’re better off, on a lot of health standpoints, but other than that, it’s such an interesting difference even 150 years have made in our human existence. So, there is a curiosity, and I like to reinvent things. When I was starting out in photography, I wanted to make my own camera. I wanted to have that kind of control, and I think that is what gives me the confidence to go forward.
In this podcast, Guider recounts intriguing stories from his journeys. He confides he was conflicted as a young man when his father was intent on paying for his education in accounting or engineering (even though they both knew his interest was keenly in the arts.) Learn how joining the yearbook staff as a student photographer at Vanderbilt University, fueled his interest in storytelling. Guider also speaks about dyslexia and how some of his management skills are applied to his current mission (that began at the age of 54) when he embarked on what may be his true life calling.
A lot of folks reinvent themselves in their second chapter. What compelled you, not only to do that, but also, to recreate the river journey of John Donelson and the founding of Nashville?
Well, it started out in 2003, when I solo paddled the entirety of the Mississippi in a canoe, having had no prior … really canoeing or camping experience. I had a little, but not much. And I had read about Demonbreun, and he was one of our first inhabitants in Nashville, and how he would collect the pelts and then, build a raft and take them down to New Orleans to sell and then, hike back on the Natchez Trace and do it again and again and again. And it was something that I felt I wanted to experience. I’ve always liked boats. I’ve always enjoyed the water, and I’m the most comfortable when I’m in nature. I feel surrounded by the world that God created, and it’s just such an enjoyable part of my living, that I can’t get enough of it. The other thing is that I was an advertising photographer before this, but I had always wanted to be an artist.
In a series of rapid-fire snapshots from his life, Guider shares advice for his younger self, whom he would like to trade places with for 24 hours, and who has influenced his creative work.
All Photos © Copyright John Guider – visit johnguider.com
In the interview, Guider elaborates on his love for the water … especially the Mississippi River which he tackled in two phases. He shares challenges along the way, including navigating the narrows alongside barges, a harrowing experience locking through a dam in his small craft, and a life-challenging attempt (almost life-ending) to sail to Alaska.
Learn what compels Guider to reinvent himself in his second chapter and about the life lessons he has learned and the paradoxes he has found while communing with nature along the river. His introspective analogies about our environment and life are compelling and offer unique perspectives and self-discovery. In the interview, he is not hesitant to share his revelations about morality and what the future has in store for him. Don’t miss how a Mae West quote serves as his inspiration to always “squeeze the day.”
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