Joe Horton began his photographic career as he returned home from military service after World War II having served as an Enlisted Technical Specialist, Communications in the United States Army Air Corps, where his interest in photography took hold. For a period of time he traveled and worked as a photographer journeying from city to city. Eventually he found his way back to Nashville and worked for WLAC-TV as a news photographer.
In the early 1960s he decided to go into business for himself and so began Joe Horton Studio. He ran the studio, located in the Melrose/8th Ave. South area, with his wife Evelyn until the latter half of 1988 when he chose to work from his home studio and darkroom following her death. It was during this time he really focused on cataloging his collection of photographic images in order to be able to share his passion with others. He continued his commercial photographic work for a few more years as well, until his death in 1991.
Mr. Horton established himself as one of the top professional photographers in town with his intrinsic skill and knowledge, and with his unique personality and wit he made a lasting impression on his clients and on this city. He charmed many Nashville brides on their special day, captured businessmen and politicians as they ran the city, worked tirelessly within the Catholic community, flew high above Nashville documenting it from a different point of view and even rubbed elbows with some of the stars who made Music City what it is today. However, his true passion was collecting images of not only Nashville but other areas within Tennessee and the South which he thought held historic significance.
The Historic Nashville Collection is the result of Mr. Horton's longtime passion of preserving the images of the past spurred by his love and pride of Nashville's rich and diverse history. He was masterfully skilled in the art of photographic restoration and his services were in high demand. Businesses, institutions and individuals alike came to him with prized family photographs, shots of buildings, structures, trains, roadways...the list is endless. He took these treasures, often damaged and torn, and restored them to their original state. Some of the images in the collection were acquired through his restoration efforts, as he often asked permission to add photos to it if he felt they were historic in nature or told a story. Some were purchased, even gifted, from people interested in seeing images they cherished preserved for future generations. Even more were added over the years as he and his wife scoured flea markets and garage sales in search of antiques.
Since his death two of his three daughters, Yvonne Hobbs and Rebecca Horton, have continued to run the studio offering the same services that Mr. Horton began over 50 years ago, namely portraiture, photography to the Catholic community and restoration. His grandsons, Jay and Mark Hobbs, have joined in to further introduce the Historic Nashville Collection to others and to showcase their grandfather’s passion to the Nashville public and beyond. Even now they continue to discover some of his photographic treasures hidden away in a box and are even finding images he shot which at the time he didn't see as being a part of history. Today the collection contains well over 1,000 images of historic buildings and places in and around Nashville, some still standing...many others long gone, interesting people, historic events, street scenes offering a peek into the past of daily life in Nashville, the railroad industry, rural life in America and the list goes on.
The collection is due to the great love Joe Horton had for the history of Nashville and his desire to preserve these images so others can glimpse into what Nashville has looked like along the way. His daughters and grandsons are truly honored to continue this tradition.