How Photowalk Nashville Began, Became a Destination
- Self-taught photographer Christy Hunter has revealed the journey behind starting her successful photography business Photowalk Nashville.
Photographer Christy Hunter has come a long way since shooting with her first single-lens DSLR camera in 2011.
The Photowalk Nashville founder has launched a business partnership with Gina Palmeri, of hen party company Nashbash Experiences, to launch an extension of her brand called Photowalk Scottsdale, which focuses on walking tours for photographers in Scottsdale, Arizona.
She also recently appeared in the comedy short “Nashville Bachelorettes: A Ben Oddo Investigation.” The Tennessean recently sat down with Hunter to talk about his career and what’s next.Can you describe your journey to becoming a photographer?Before the Internet was available, I used to go to bookstores as a child and teenager, and look at books. I also loved old films from the classic Hollywood age, so I was quite obsessed with old Hollywood glamour. I would just look at these photos, and if I could find any of the Hollywood starlets of the 40s, I would love the photos and how stylish they were, from the makeup to the hair. I’ve always had a fascination with iconic photos.
Then I became a mother and had four children. Until then, I always took pictures with a regular camera and had them printed. But one day I realized that I could buy a good camera and learn how to take good quality photos. So I bought my first DSLR with the intention of being able to try a new hobby and a new creative outlet.
Then one night in 2018, I was online dreaming of a trip to Europe, looking at places on Airbnb to stay. During this search, I saw that there was a whole other product from Airbnb called “experiences”. In this search I saw that you can do a photoshoot in Paris with a Parisian photographer to style you, pose you, then show you the sights and tell you where to eat, where to shop – all insider information that photographers know because we know our cities, right? I was like, ‘This is it. That’s what I’m supposed to do in Nashville. This is the exit. This is how I must proceed. So I contacted Airbnb via the email at the bottom of the page. I didn’t know anyone there yet. I said, ‘How can I do this thing in Nashville? I want to do a photo shoot.’ I got a real response from someone, and they said, ‘Actually, we’re launching experiments in Nashville in two weeks. Do you want to be part of it? I said, “Sure, sign me up.”
It became this whole whole experience, and then it went to the #1 Airbnb experience. And it’s still the #1 experience on this platform.
Did you expect Photowalk Nashville to become the best experience on Airbnb?It really happened in a very organic way… So in the first six months of doing this through Airbnb, they reached out to me and said, “We see your leadership potential. We really like what you’re doing in Nashville. We want you to be the leader of the Experience Home community.
And I said, ‘Sure, let’s do this,’ and it became my job – which I continued to do five years later. I now work directly with Airbnb. It’s kind of like representing the Experience Host community, and even when I’m in communication with the product team at HQ, they ask me what I know about the app and the website, and I start really give advice to them.
It’s been such a cool opportunity, and it’s connected me with experienced hosts all over the world. It’s an outlet and a way to show them Nashville and to be able to connect people to Nashville internationally.
What’s your favorite thing about operating Photowalk Nashville?
One of the cool things about this experience is that it comes at a time when people are celebrating, or are on vacation, or maybe they’re just a solo traveler trying to find themselves. For me it has always been something deeper than just taking pictures. A photoshoot is something of a self-care experience. It’s something you do for yourself and an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself. I see it as a way, from my side as host and photographer, to have the possibility to encourage someone and to give them confidence or to give them a feeling of security, but above all to believe in themselves- even.
The best reviews for me are the ones where someone says, “I never thought I was good on camera, but after that Christy made me feel confident or made me feel like I ‘was beautiful’. I take a good photo. I want people to stop believing this lie that they’re clumsy, that they’re not good at taking pictures, that they’re just not photogenic. I think these are lies that we tell ourselves in our heads.
You never know if this might be the last photoshoot you have with someone. I had a group of friends who came last summer. They were best friends who I think came from somewhere in the Midwest. They did a fun photo shoot. We just had a great time. And then on Christmas Day, this past Christmas, one of the girls said to me, ‘Christy, I lost the photos. Is it possible that you still have these photos? Because my best friend passed away, and these are the last pictures we have together. She offered to pay me, but I said, ‘You don’t have to pay me anything. Yes, I still have them. And I sent them to him.
We had people celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We’ve had proposals where I’ve seen someone ask another person to spend the rest of their life together, and I’m the only one with them. You know, it’s so special.
Do you also have locals who participate in the photowalk experience?
Yes, lots of locals. I had a nice lady celebrating her 47th birthday from Murfreesboro. The husband had planned the whole day in Nashville for her, and every step was a surprise, so she didn’t even know she was going to do this photoshoot. He just told her to dress up and have fun.
How has your business developed since your creation?
Well, Airbnb Experiences have connected me with many great people, including my business partner Gina Palmeri. She and I were both Photographer Experience Hosts, and we met through our community and business partners. It’s been an amazing connection, and now we’ve been able to join forces and create a women-owned business that we name Photowalk your trip. So we have Photowalk Your Travel with the subdomain PhotowalkNashville.com. Then we’re also launching in other cities, and we just opened Photowalk Scottsdale, Arizona, so it has its own area for PhotowalkScottsdale.com.
Also, I started taking my daughters with me to photo and video gigs as soon as they were ready. So when I was 12, 13, they started coming with me, and that led to my eldest daughter learning videography. She became a professional videographer at 19… I just started bringing them in and wanting them to meet the people I meet and have them in this world. Homeschooling has really given way to the freedom to do so. My youngest daughter is our editor.
Now I have a crew of five here in Nashville and three in Scottsdale, so it’s not just me taking pictures anymore. We’ve grown, and we also have eight different experiences.
There is no limit. It’s something that’s so open to all demographics, and it’s just easy and fun. Show up in what you’re wearing and you don’t have to think about any of that. I think, from what we’ve seen, it will exceed people’s expectations. What they get is more than a photo shoot. It’s a complete experience.