Most people know British singer-songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Graham Nash as member of the Hollies in the early 1960s and later Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young). He also is known as an activist, from peace protests in the late '60s and '70s to environmental and child welfare issues in the '80s and '90s.
But until recently, one of his creative talents in photography has gone largely unrecognized. Nash has been snapping photos since childhood, turned on to the art by his father, an amateur photographer who would develop and print images in a makeshift darkroom at home. Nash also is considered a pioneer in digital imaging and printing, and is an avid collector of fine art photography.
The exhibition "Eye to Eye: Photographs by Graham Nash," opening Jan. 8 at the Museum of Photographic Arts, consists of 80 photographs featuring images from tour, portraits of fellow musicians, his family and self portraits. The exhibition runs through April 30.
The photographs span half a century, from 1953-2003, a diary of family life and life on the road with bandmates and other traveling musicians. The exhibition includes portraits of fellow musicians including David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliott and Phil Collins. Many of these stars were caught in unguarded moments, the images portraying great intimacy.
There are also a number of photographs of his wife of more than 25 years, their three children, friends and self-portraits taken in mirrors or captured in reflections of shop windows. Nash's photographs -- mostly black and white -- are often gritty, ironic, surreal, complex, capturing timely or unexpected moments.
"I have always been intrigued by Graham Nash because he is a man who has found so many ways of presenting himself so eloquently," said MoPA director Arthur Ollman. "From writing music to singing and photography, to collecting photography and printing it digitally, he has seized so many opportunities to express himself."
Nash is often considered the father of digital printing. Together with friend, photographer and road manager R. Mac Holbert, the musician developed an interest in the fledgling technology of digital imaging in the late 1980s. Unsatisfied with print quality and sizes available for gallery exhibits, they adapted the Iris ink-jet printer for fine-art purposes and co-founded Nash Editions, the first fine-art digital printmaking studio in the world. Today the company is known for printing the work of internationally famous artists such as David Hockney, Joyce Neimanas and Robert Heinecken.
Nash is also a collector, having amassed more than 3,000 images over the course of 20 years. In 1990, he auctioned off a part of his collection that included rare works by noted photographers Julia Margaret Cameron, Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The group of images fetched a record $2.17 million at Sotheby's -- the highest price ever paid for a private photographic collection.
The exhibition's photographs and many more are featured in the book "Eye to Eye: Photographs by Graham Nash," available in the museum store. Nash himself wrote the forward, with an introduction by Garrett White.
MoPA is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 9 p.m. The museum is located in Balboa Park in the Casa De Balboa building, east of the main traffic circle and central fountain. Gallery admission is $6 for adults, $4 for students, seniors and military, and free to members and children under 12. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of the month. For more information call (619) 238-7559 or visit www.mopa.org.