August 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
OLD CITY LIFE (August 2014)
“…’The objective of what we do is to exemplify through form the very essence of (an artist’s) work, but in Love, Graham Nash it became more about the essence of the man, his vision, his music. In this case, the man and the artist are virtually inseparable. He is relentless in his pursuit of the bigger picture,’ says Steven Albahari, publisher, 21st Editions, The Art of the Book.
If you’ve never heard of Love, Graham Nash, 21st Editions or Steven Albahari, stop reading right now and visit the website. (www.21steditions.com.) Seriously. it’s that important. Because until you see the quality, scope and creativity of The Art of the Book collections, it will be almost impossible to grasp the artistic contribution Nash has made through his collaboration with Albahari and his 21st Editions publishing partner, acclaimed poet John Wood. (Google him too if you need to – you’ll be glad you did.) Defined as ‘interactive performance art’ by Albahari, Nash’s artistic ‘neighbors’ at 21st Editions include Sally Mann, Joel-Peter Witkin, Imogen Cunningham and Herman Leonard (the collection Listen: Herman Leonard and His World of Jazz was honored with the 2010 Lucie Award).
Whatever most of us think we know about Graham Nash, many of us don’t know about his talent for capturing a moment – or, in this case, an entire era – through an image. He became obsessed with taking pictures at a very early age and learned about photography from his father, who went to jail because of a misunderstanding over a $30 camera. Nash explains, ‘That was very traumatic for me. I was a young boy and my father’s main joy in his life was this camera that he’d bought from a friend. The police came to our door, my father wouldn’t reveal his friend’s name and, long story short, he ended up in jail.’
Nash went on to collect multiple honors for his own work, has curated the work of others and established Nash Editions, recognized by the Smithsonian Institution for its role in the invention of digital fine art printing. Both his first IRIS 3047 printer and his 1969 portrait of David Crosby are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
With all these accolades, why take on a project of this magnitude? Four years in the making, one in production and Nash involved almost every step of the way. Simple. ‘The one thing I’ve always demanded from the universe is quality. I want the best, always. When Steven showed me some of the books he had produced, I wanted to do one with him.’
Photographer and St. Augustine-resident Kenneth Barrett, Jr., has seen the 21st Editions Love, Graham Nash collection and considers it to be ‘a piece of living history. We are viewing an era through the eyes of Graham Nash and the people with whom he interacted. Nash always had his camera with him and was on the forefront of the digital printing era. What he’s done here is put together a fabulous look at life through his lens. And he saw it all. As an insider, he was allowed to wander around behind the scenes where you and I or other photographers and journalists wouldn’t have that kind of access.’
And what is the bigger picture? Nash doesn’t hesitate. ‘The bigger picture here is that as dire as the world seems, as crazy as it seems, as violent as it seems, there are many, many wonderful things done in this world every day. Hope is better than depression, love is better than hatred and peace is better than war.’ Where do we start? Again, at least for Graham Nash, it’s simple. ‘If you don’t like violence, don’t beat people up. If you’re looking for beauty, appreciate beauty wherever you might find it. Be what you want to see.’ And which photo in the Love, Graham Nash collection best represents that bigger picture for the photographer himself ? I suggest my favorite; a simple shot of Nash’s wife Susan nursing their now-32-year-old daughter Nile. It took a minute, but he agreed. ‘Yes, I think that does represent the essence of what I believe. Our children, even though they are 25% of our population, are actually 100% of our future and if we don’t teach them a better way of dealing with our fellow human beings, we’re in dire straits here.’
Which goes to show that, if we pay attention to our troubadours and trailblazers, we might discover that life really does imitate art; that if we wait long enough, most things will come full circle and that those words, written by a young Graham Nash over forty years ago, still hold very true today. Teach your children well. Feed them on your dreams. And know they love you…”