Since the ‘60s, Graham Nash has occupied a place of soaring highs in the harmony-laden musical trio Crosby Stills & Nash and sometimes Young - whose litany of poignant songs have carried forth from the Woodstock generation.
But in addition to honing some serious rock star chops, dating women like Joni Mitchell, living the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle, Nash has wiled away his spare time over the decades eking out some pretty serious photography.
His introduction to photography began as a child, but got off to a strange start. His father gave him his first camera which turned out to be stolen. Rather than rat on the person who might’ve stolen the camera, Nash’s dad stayed quiet and spent a year in jail for the crime.
“It really broke his spirit,” said Nash recently during a showing of his photographs at the San Francisco Art Exchange.
When Nash was 11 years old, he clicked a portrait of his mother which is still one of his favorite pictures. Sometime after childhood, the camera got replaced by rock music - Nash formed “The Hollies,” which became one of England’s most popular groups of the day. It wasn’t until he joined voices with David Crosby and Stephen Stills in 1968 that photography came back into the picture.
“It was only when I came to America and started to make some really serious money,” said Nash, “I was able to afford cameras.”
The perch of rock of roll stardom turned out to be a pretty fortunate place to take photos. Among his pictures; a photo of then-girlfriend Joni Mitchell, shot through the back of a chair. There’s a picture of Jackson Browne taken from the back seat of a car, a portrait of a young David Crosby — another photo of a then-drug addled Crosby sitting alone backstage.
“He was completely alone there,” said Nash, “and I think that image really captured that moment.”
Aside from taking pictures of other musicians, Nash prefers to shoot photos of every day life unfolding around him - the silhouette of a bike tire, a dog dashing between two cars — a young girl sitting on the counter of a burger restaurant in anywhere USA, with an Uzi sitting beside her.
“I’m much more interested in moments that happen in the blink of an eye,” said Nash. “I’m not sure I’ve ever taken a picture of a sunset.”
Nash became so enamored with the craft of photography, he founded his own company Nash Editions to focus on fine art photo printing. He also delves into sculpting and painting.
“I can’t stop this insatiable urge to communicate,” said Nash. “I have to create every single day.”
A collection of Nash’s photos are on display at the Mumm Fine Art in Napa through May 31.