The Country Music Association has selected five students for the Photography division of the 2014 CMA Close Up Award of Merit team. Candidates for the Award of Merit were chosen based on submission of their photography work as students, and in conjunction with CMA EDU chapters. The recipients will be credentialed media members at CMA Music Fest, and will take photographs of all aspects of the 2014 CMA Music Festival in Nashville from June 5-8. Their photos will be posted throughout the Festival at One of these five student journalists will be selected after the Festival as the winner of the 2014 Award of Merit in Photography. That student will come back in November as a credentialed photographer to shoot on the Red Carpet at the CMA Awards; CMA will present the student with a medallion during a CMA Awards press conference.

Chris Stapleton performs in the atrium for Live@CMA on September 30, 2013.

Chris Stapleton, by Sarah Abell

SarahAbellSarah Abell – Nossi College of Art

“Last year I worked as a photography archiver with the County Music Association (CMA). I participated in the CMA Festival, photographed on the red carpet at the CMA Awards, and photographed on the red carpet at the Country Music Hall of Fame Induction. When I was there working I met two inspiring photographers that gave me a lot of hands on experience outside of CMA. I feel like my event photography has really grown because of their guidance. I lived on 100 acres of farm land back home in Alabama, to me it wasn’t an exciting town. But coming to Nashville and getting to be right in front of artists or getting to be on the sidelines in front of all the action, I know this is what I want to do in life. The reason photography fills my heart is because no one can stand where I stand and see what I see, except for me. Not only does it give me memories to cherish for the rest of my life, but it also lets others relive memories they have.”




Rascal Flatts, by Dusty Draper

DustyDraperDusty Draper – Nossi College of Art

“I’m a native of Arizona.  I moved out here two years ago. I’m married with three children.  My favorite food is General Tso’s Chicken or a greasy cheeseburger. I love to travel out west back to Arizona or to La Jolla Beach near San Diego. My favorite shoot so far was probably a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at a small church in Bowling Green, KY.  There was so much raw emotion and I feel I captured some of that in my photos.  Shooting at the Grand Ole Opry was pretty amazing too.  I love shooting live events because I feel like I am part of the whole experience, plus I’m recording that specific moment in the artist’s career in a photograph!  How cool is that?!?”



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Hunter Hayes, by Valerie Fraser

Valerie Fraser – Belmont University

“My name is Valerie Fraser, and I am from a suburb of Detroit, MI. I am currently a student at Belmont University studying Music Business, and my three passions in life are music, fashion, and photography. Taking pictures at concerts is a way to combine two of these passions of mine, which is why I love capturing artists on the stage. I get such a kick out of being able to capture an artist in their most vulnerable state while pouring their emotions into a song. I haven’t had much experience besides being on staff of my high school yearbook, as well as taking photos at the Downtown Hoedown in Detroit, so I’m extremely excited about this opportunity to work with CMA Fest. All I want in life is to make people smile, travel the world, and have fun doing what I love with people who encourage me on the way.”




Erin McCarley, by Laci Kent

LaciKentLaci Kent – Nossi College of Art

“I claim Jacksonville, FL as my hometown because my dad was in the Navy and I lived there 3 times for over 20 plus years. I’ve lived in Nashville for a little over 2 years now. As far as experience, I have shot several of the Musician’s Corner concerts & Nashville Dancin’ at the riverfront in Nashville. I shot the Vince Gill golf tournament last year called The Vinny which included celebrities & junior pro am golfers. I shot Dierks Bentley’s charity concert Miles & Music last year, the Lee Brice, Randy Houser & Friends concert during CRS week this year. I’ve also shot several Vanderbilt athletic events and different functions for the Nashville Sports League.

I like to travel everywhere. I went to Italy a few years ago and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I try to take a few major trips to cities I’ve never been to throughout the year. My favorite shoot that I’ve had so far would definitely be Miles & Music. I love working with any kind of charity and knowing that all of those artists were there to raise money for the Children’s Hospital at Vandy made it an even better experience. I really like shooting events because it lets me meet all kinds of people and travel and also be outside most of the time. The thing I love most about photography is that it lets me tell a story through my photographs. It doesn’t matter if I’m photographing an editorial piece or an old rustic barn, there is always something about the subject that comes through with a photo. And last but not least, my favorite food is shrimp… or any seafood really. I think that’s the Florida girl in me always sticking with the sea.”


Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry, by Erin Turner

Whisenhunt and MasonErin Turner – Lipscomb University

“Erin Turner is a freshman at Lipscomb University and a Nashville native, who grew up in a musical environment. Exposed to professionals in the music industry through her father, Erin discovered a deep love for music photography at a very young age. When she was 9, Erin was handed her first camera and then taught herself how to use Photoshop. Combining her love of music and photography, she began photographing artists in the recording studio, concerts and portraits for album artwork. In high school, Erin started her own photography business in which she has experience photographing weddings, engagements, families, seniors and children. Erin’s love for photography carried with her in college, as she is the photographer for Lipscomb University’s student online news service, Lumination Network. During her spring semester, she interned with The Tennessean, learning the art and value of news photography. Erin had a tremendous variety of hands-on experience through her internship, including shooting live music, sports, political and social events, architecture, nightlife, sports figures and actors. Photography has given her the opportunity to travel to new places, meet new people and create treasured images. Erin especially shares a passion of capturing live music because she understands the heart that goes into playing it. Sharing the spirit of capturing candid moments and the individuals experiencing them, Erin uses each opportunity to tell a vivid story.”