written by Wendy Newcomer

For 12 years Joe Hardwick has been an established commercial photographer ( His subjects range from celebrities and models to artists and tourists, all passing through Music City and on to their dreams and destinations. But one day Joe bought a van, paid his bills for the next two months, and decided to set out on his own path.

“I think traveling is in my blood,” says this son of a military man and the great-great-grandson of a Hungarian gypsy queen. “This trip has been in the back of my head for a long time. I can trace the roots of it back to when I was in the sixth grade. My dad had retired from the Air Force and we were living in Idaho. We lived in an RV for the summer, just traveling from Idaho up the west coast and up into Canada. That’s the time in life just before you start growing up and becoming an adult. So I think part of this trip is me trying to get back to that feeling.”

Joe’s itinerary includes heading out from Nashville up to Michigan, taking a four-hour ferry ride across the Great Lakes, cruising through Milwaukee, up to the Dells, then to Winnepeg, Toronto and back down the east coast. He’s taking this journey in a 1993 Volkswagon Euro van. “It’s a unique vehicle,” says Joe with a smile. “I wanted it to be kind of a conversation piece. People who know what it is will be inclined to ask about it, so I wanted it to be approachable.”

In this van will be the three cameras he’ll use to photograph everything from pop culture architecture to classic architecture, to landscapes and people. “I have a Canon Digital 10 D, an Olympus E-10, and an Sony 8mm video camera,” says Joe. “I like to photograph quirky, funny things. With commercial photography, I’m somewhat of a “hired gun.” On this trip I’ll be able to photograph what I’d like to see and then be able to translate that visually – maybe give a unique perspective on America, from my eyes.”

Check Joe’s website – often to see what he’s finding on his journey.