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Forbes - Graham Nash Talks New Photography Exhibit And Giving Back

By Steve Baltin - FORBES Contributor
A two-time member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with the Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Graham Nash is a music icon. He is also an accomplished photographer and that is at the forefront of his new exhibit of 29 photographs, on display at Carlsbad, California’s Museum Of Making Music, until August 31.
Nash, who also performed a sold-out benefit concert at the NAMM Foundation’s museum this past weekend, is showcasing photos of many of his friends, who just happen to include Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jerry Garcia and more.
I spoke with Nash about the exhibit, how photography predates music in his life and why it’s important to give back, especially now in the age of the Trump administration.
Graham Nash: I can’t remember doing a musical show when I had a photography show at the same time in the same venue. I think this might be the first time.
Baltin: I would imagine an exhibit like this stirs up a lot of memories.
Nash: Yeah, I look one of the recent exhibits and I just am grateful that I have so many interesting friends. It might be a shot of David Crosby or Neil Young, but it’s not to me. It’s my friend David, it brings back really fun memories of the moment. As a photographer I try to be as invisible as possible. I don’t want people knowing that I’m taking their image.
Baltin: Were there particular memories that really jumped out at you?
Nash: Oh yeah, there’s an image that I printed first on the ancient printer way back in the late 1980s when I started Nash Visions. And I remember taking that shot of David in New York City and knowing that I made a beautiful image of him, but he had no clue that I was there at all. And that’s what I liked most of all. I like images where my subject has no idea that I’m there. I want to be invisible.
Baltin: How would you describe yourself as a photographer?
Nash: I like to see surreal moments. I’m not a photographer that makes images the same color as your couch for instance. I’m not interested in kittens with balls of wool or sunset or landscapes. I’m interested in very surreal human moments that happen in front of me, almost daily.
Baltin: Do you see a marked difference in photography you did then and now?
Nash: No, actually not. I’ve been a photographer longer than I’ve been a musician. The first portrait I took of my mother in my book was taken when I was 11. So I have a lot of photographs over all these years. Quite frankly I’m not so sure which images are being hung in the exhibit because I like to leave it to the exhibitor and the gallery owner. They know more about their space than I will ever and they know which images look better next to which image. Therefore I’m looking forward to seeing which images they chose to hang.
Baltin: Is there a gallery that would be your dream place to show your work?
Nash: Wow, I’ve never been asked that question. I believe I would have to say if I had a show at British Photographic Society. My father, as an amateur photographer, taught magic of photography. He was very interested in the British Photographic Society and that’s where he got a lot of his inspiration from. If I was to exhibit my photos there that would be a thrill.
Baltin: Why was it important as well to do the musical benefit?
Nash: I’ve been an incredibly lucky man all my life and I’ve been given a lot of fame and infamy and money and experience. I have to give back, that’s why I’m doing this, particularly for younger people. The first thing that disappears in any school budget is the music and arts program. You’ll never see the football program canceled for instance. Music and art are the first things and it’s been scientifically proven that if children get involved in music at early ages they feel better about themselves, they get better grades, they don’t get into trouble as much. There’s a program that was set up by President Obama and Michelle Obama called “Turn Around Art” program and that’s where musicians adopt a school that isn’t doing so well and tries to bring arts back into the school program and increase their grades and it’s working spectacularly well. And the school that I adopted is in New Orleans.
Baltin: Have you been to visit the school?
Nash: Oh yes, and I’ve been to the music program and talked to the music director and the boys and girls at the school had rewritten “Chicago” and came up to me and said, “I hope you don’t mind, we love your song ‘Chicago,’ but we rewrote it.” So I said, “Okay, fill me in, what did you do?” And they said, “Well, now it’s ‘Would you please come to New Orleans just to sing?’” That was the only change and of course I would go along with that.
Baltin: Are you seeing a rise in activism and benefits?
Nash: Absolutely, particularly with Planned Parenthood. First of all the abortions that Planned Parenthood do are done with no money from the government whatsoever and they’re only three percent of what the services they provide for women. All the mammogram and the pap smear tests and other stuff women have to deal with in their lives are provided by Planned Parenthood if you can’t afford it. My particular experience with this with my girlfriend that I love and I’m gonna marry, she was provided help by Planned Parenthood and if she wasn’t able to go there there’s a great possibility she might not be here today. So it’s incredibly important and I did see an incredible surge in donations to people like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood right after Trump was named president.
Baltin: Talk about the importance of a place like this museum.
Nash: The truth is it’s always been a part of my life, so of course it’s important. Once again I take it back to the same thing, we have to stay vigilant, we have to stay awake and we have to stay strong and fight what’s going on. This Russian madness and attack on women and EPA and National Academy Of The Arts and all the other stuff we should have, let’s just talk about climate change for a f**king second. Are you kidding? He just put us back years fighting against something that’s all humanity, not just f**king Trump supporters.