Robin Hood

His images are magic, in the truest sense of the word. They hold you, transport you, change your emotions and unleash your imagination. Robin Hood is a master craftsman, and the photographs he makes tell story after spellbinding story.

Hood, whose name and images are familiar to many Williamson Countians, earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his photograph of a disabled veteran and his child at an Armed Forces Day parade, which appeared in the Chattanooga News-Free Press. Since gaining national attention while working at the paper, Hood has been an active Tennessean and has crafted a career out of pursuing his art, photography, and promoting his home state (see next page). His latest project, Tennessee Country: In the Land of Their Fathers, is another in a string of publications that showcases the agrarian people and places that make Tennessee unique and remind us of our roots.

“Well, I had done a few other books on Tennessee (including The Tennesseans: A People and Their Land and The Tennesseans: A People Revisited),” Hood says. “Each time I had been compelled to have a balance between the rural and the urban, between the traditional and the modern.

“Of course, I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors and the rural environments – they’ve been interesting subjects to me as a photographer. And doing a book primarily on those aspects was appealing to me. Through some advertising work that I had done with the Farm Bureau, I was meeting with their executives, and we decided it would be a good idea to put together a book that showcased farming and rural life in Tennessee.”

Hood says the decision to work on this project was a deeply personal one.

“Most people that live in the city, even today, are only one or two generations removed from a farm,” he explains. “My father lived in a city, but he grew up on a farm in east Tennessee. That may be why I am spiritually drawn to farms. I see a beauty in that way of life – there is something very right about it, about being tied to the seasons, the movements of nature and the pulse of the earth.”

Inside Tennessee Country, readers will find 160 pages filled with more than 90 color photographs created by Hood. The images run the gamut from sweeping landscapes to intimate portraits, all carefully balanced with warm hues and defining shadows.

In addition, the book features five poignant essays by celebrated Tennessee authors — Marilou Awiakta, John Egerton, John Ricer Irwin, Peter Jenkins and Jeff Daniel Marion. The essays offer insightful slices of life from country corners often overlooked by city dwellers.

“The written word in a photo book is very important,” Hood says. “The authors’ voices add substance, heart and soul to the book. The writers worked independently, without reference to the photography, and I am thrilled with what they wrote. They cover rural, small-town Tennessee life, along with its traditions, scenery and people.”

Hood says this work was published for the Tennessee Farm Bureau primarily to benefit the Tennessee Farm Bureau Women organization. The book is sponsored by Tennessee Rural Health and Tennessee Farmers Insurance Companies, and its profits will fund Tennessee Farm Bureau Women’s school programs and initiatives.

“They will receive of the proceeds from the book,” Hood says. “The Farm Bureau Women organization helps promote the agrarian lifestyle. They do many things to promote and support farming communities. They also host Farm Days for school kids, and they take them to farms to teach them things, like where milk comes from. “Of course, I believe the public will be interested in this book to support the Farm Bureau. I also feel people will find the work to be a meaningful celebration of the beauty and importance of farms and farmers and the people who are a part of the rural lifestyle in

Tennessee Country: In the Land of Their Fathers is on sale at Tennessee Farm Bureau offices across the state, including local branches at Williamson Square, Grassland, Nolensville, Spring Hill and Leiper’s Fork Antiques. Signed copies are also available (upon request) at downtown Franklin’s Landmark Booksellers. Books can also be ordered by calling 931.388.7872, ext. 2217. This book is published by Grandin Hood Publishers of Franklin.

Robin Hood has been just about everywhere in Tennessee – every mountain, valley, hill and “holler.” He says he’s been able to pursue his passions, while maintaining a certain business savvy.

“It’s great to do something that truly is art,” Hood says. “And I’ve always loved the creative aspects of photography and art, but without losing sight of the business aspect side of it. But there has to be a balance, especially if you’re going to do something like this for a living.

Hood, who grew up in Chattanooga, began making personal photographs while in Vietnam as an army information officer and later worked as a photographer for the Chattanooga News-Free Press for seven years. He left the paper in 1979 to work for then-governor Lamar Alexander and was named the Director of Media Services for the state.

“In September of 1977, I found myself covering Alexander’s campaign,” Hood says. “That was back when he was doing his 1,000-mile walk across Tennessee. I walked with him several days, taking pictures and talking with him. When he got elected, he called me and commissioned me to do a book on Tennessee back roads. I traveled across the state for six months in an R.V. along with a writer friend of mine, Barry Parker, who left the newspaper to work with me. It was called The Tennesseans: A People and Their Land. After that project, I went to work at Alexander’s offices in Nashville.”

In 1984, he established Robin Hood Photography, creating images for corporate publications and national advertising campaigns. In 1994, he reunited with Parker to form Parker Hood Press, publishers of the award-winning books The Tennesseans: A People Revisited and Neyland: Life of a Stadium. In 2004, Hood established his own publishing company in Franklin, Grandin Hood Publishers, named from his parent’s surnames.

“We publish books for corporations, foundations and organizations to serve two purposes,” he explains. “First, we give them a great book that tells their story. Second, we provide a product that they can use to raise funds.”

Over his career, Hood has traveled all over the United States to work on projects for various clients. He has produced books for Alaskan tourism, the University of Washington’s football team, the Colonial Pipeline, and even Japan-Southeast Trade Association. He says that he still remains passionate about his home state and the issues that affect the quality of life here.

“Tennessee is a great place to live,” Hood says. “I’ve been fortunate to do books on its people and places. It’s important to me to protect and preserve our sense of place and this land – especially our green and open spaces. We shouldn’t take these for granted.”

Jay Sheridan
Shannon Bream