Eye To Eye: Photographs By Graham Nash

by Matt Damsker


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Photographs by Graham Nash. Produced and edited by Garrett White. First Edition 2004; published by Steidl. 193 pages; approximately 150 plates. ISBN No. 3-88243-960-2. Orders can be placed directly with Steidl: phone: +49 551 496060; fax: +49 551 4960649; email: mail@steidl.de ; http://www.steidl.de .

It's fitting that the most affecting images in this five-decade collection by Graham Nash are of his musical compatriots--from Joni Mitchell to his bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young. Perhaps that's due to Nash's palpable affection for and empathy with these very private personalities who, like him, can't escape the limelight. Nash, as this beautifully produced book makes clear, has been taking photographs longer than he's been making rock 'n' roll; by 1953, at the age of 11, he was capturing fine images of zoo animals, his glamorous mother and amateur-photographer father, all in the north of England. Since then, his dual career, as pop superstar and intrepid lensman, has flourished; and one suspects Nash would be happy if his greater legacy proved to be these photographs.

Nash is certainly committed to the medium. He built one of the most important private photo collections by the late 1980s, and sold it in the 1990s to help finance Nash Editions, the first fine-art digital printmaking studio in the world. By then, he had begun to exhibit his own work, and "Eye to Eye" chronicles how widely and how well that work ranges, under the influence of great artists from Lewis Hine and Eugene Smith to Weegee and Cartier-Bresson. Nash is well traveled, of course, and so there's a great restless charm to his images, evoking Lee Friedlander in their fascination with street and shop window, odd reflections, random objects, and urban textures. When he marries his eye for gritty detail, unorthodox perspective, and the decisive moment with the human subjects he cares most about, the results can startle, marvelously. The dark hippie intensity of a youthful Neil Young is captured with an easy intimacy, as are shots of a pensive Joni Mitchell, an edgy Dennis Hopper, and a jaunty and Buddha-like David Crosby, glimpsed through the years.

It is obvious that what powers Nash's photography is what powers his singing and songwriting--an intense love of his artistic gift and the artists with whom he shares it.

Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published this past November.