New venture for rock legend Graham Nash

By Adam Tanner

Graham Nash sang at Woodstock, has penned many popular tunes and, with longtime partners David Crosby and Stephen Stills, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But the author of Our House, Immigration Man and Teach Your Children shows particular pride in his own photography and digital image printing business, Nash Editions.

"That's ... boring," the 64-year-old Nash says of his many musical accolades. "I've been a musician since I was 13 years old - but this is something new."

For a singer who has sold millions of records, he is amused to tell of one encounter when a fan stopped him to say: "Graham, good prints!"

British-born Nash started taking photos as a boy, but did not show his work until ex-girlfriend Joni Mitchell, the singer-songwriter who inspired Our House, connected him with a gallery in 1990.

"It was basically at her instigation that I really got into this thing because I never shared my energies, it was just a private thing that I did," he says.

But an art director borrowed his photos of Mitchell for a book, and lost several years' worth of negatives taken around 1968-71, including some of Woodstock.

To replace them, Nash had to enlarge tiny images on a contact sheet, but no firm did the work he needed.

So he invested in a US$126,000 ($182,240) printer, which is now in the Smithsonian Museum. He covered the cost of the venture by auctioning his collection of other people's work including that of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus.

The sale brought in more than US$2 million, and in 1991 Nash Editions began printing both his images and the work of others.

The goal is to turn the zeros and ones that make up any digital file and turn them into a work of art, typically in a large-size, high-resolution photo print. Among those who have printed with the firm is British artist David Hockney, as well as other prominent contemporary photographers.

Nash beams as he talks about the Smithsonian putting his original printer in its collection.

"I'm not in the Smithsonian for music. You like to get stroked in a different discipline."

The business lost money in the early years, but gradually built a reputation and now brings in annual revenues of US$1-$1.5 million, says business partner Mac Holbert, who was once the tour manager for Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The California-based firm has also just published a new book, Nash Editions: Photography and the Art of Digital Printing.

"My fame as a musician undoubtedly helped, it brought attention to what we were doing. That's why we called it Nash Editions," he says.

The rocker, who lives in Hawaii, continues to play music as he reaches retirement age. Crosby, Stills & Nash tour Australia and New Zealand soon and, then Nash and Crosby will tour in the United States. Next summer the threesome will give concerts anew, joined by Neil Young.

He reflects for a moment when asked if he finds photography or music more fulfilling: "Writing a song that I can sit you down and play you and knock you on your ass with is a very personal, thrilling moment of exchange between two people."


* Crosby, Stills & Nash play Trusts Stadium, Waitakere, Friday, Mar 2

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