Capturing Beauty Through a Legal Lens:

The Photographic Journey of Michael Alan Nash

By Guillaume Jean Lefebvre

Michael Alan Nash, a descendant of George William Nash from Rainham, Kent, England, embarked on a unique journey that seamlessly intertwined his legal career with a profound passion for photography. Born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, and raised by his mother with sporadic visits from his father, a photographer, Nash's childhood laid the foundation for a life infused with an appreciation for beauty.

Influenced by his mother's keen eye for aesthetics, Nash's childhood experiences ranged from living in the British Isles, Paris, and Rome, exploring art galleries with his mother's insightful commentary. This exposure cultivated a deep sense of beauty that would later shape his artistic endeavors.

Opting for a career in law, Nash's retirement marked a transformative period where he dedicated himself to photography. His academic journey includes an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Philosophy from Brock University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Toronto. Nash further honed his photographic skills through continuing education courses at Mohawk College.

Key moments in his professional career were defined by a significant friendship with photographer Paul Iacoviello, a master in model photography. Despite the loss of his mentor to glioblastoma, Nash continued to pursue his passion methodically, drawing inspiration from paintings and sculptures.

As a photographer, Nash takes pride in his work being appreciated by others. Whether displayed in homes or chosen for publications, the affirmation from viewers fuels his creativity. Balancing his professional life, Nash remains an involved father, grandfather, docent at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and politically active individual.

Looking ahead, Nash envisions future projects, including location shoots akin to his successful venture on the Magdalen Islands in 2022. Ultimately, he aspires to be perceived as an imaginative, sensitive, respectful, and meticulous human being who happens to wield a camera, capturing the world's beauty one frame at a time.


1. Can you delve deeper into the cultural influences that shaped your family history, especially considering your lineage from George William Nash and your father's migration from Jamaica to Canada post-World War II?

The original immigrant to Jamaica in my family line, George William Nash, was part of the wave of migration from the UK to the colonies in the 19th century in which young men were lured by the dream of establishing a new and prosperous life. George William became a farmer; one of his sons William Caswell Nash carried on the farm, enlarging it to a plantation and starting a dry goods store named W C Nash & Co in the town of Black River, St Elizabeth Parish, on the southeast coast of Jamaica. For a reason unknown to me, ownership of the plantation, the mansion house built on it, and W C Nash & Co passed from William Caswell Nash to another of George William Nash’s sons, my grandfather Septimus Nash, all of which was inherited by one of my father’s brothers Derrick. After World War II in which my father served in a radar unit of the Royal Air Force in the UK, he and two of his brothers who had also served in the War emigrated to Canada, again seeking a better life. Though by comparison to the local black population in Black River life in my father’s family--having a lovely house, a plantation and a central business in the town--was grand, by virtue of their wartime observations overseas, my father and the two brothers perceived that life for them in Jamaica would be constrained. My father’s vocational training was as a bookkeeper, but on coming to Canada his early work was on a farm in south western Ontario, Canada. It so happened he met the farmer’s daughter, who had trained as teacher. They got married, had me, and then about a year and a half later separated. My father carried on as a bookkeeper but with a strong passion for photography as a hobby, turning that into a business that lasted about five or six years. He was a much better photographer than a businessman though. He went bankrupt and then studied to become a stationary engineer. When I was old enough to go to school my mother returned to teaching, where her subjects were art and English.

It was in that period when my father has his photography studio that I had the most regular phase of visiting with him. I often had to sit for him as a photography subject. I imbibed the ambience of the gear, books and photographs that populated the studio. My mother did not just teach art and English, she lived art and English. My grammar was always corrected. She took me to the library to get books weekly. She took me to theatre, starting with Shakespeare at Stratford, Ontario when I was about eight years old. Our house was full of art books and good literature. We had original art on the walls. Having the farm connection allowed me to have job opportunities there every summer for ten years, where we worked ten hours a day, six days a week, starting at 65 cents an hour. So I would say that the main influences on me from my family history were: the need to work hard, and appreciation of art, language and photography.

2. Growing up in Chatham, Ontario, and experiencing both rural and city life, how did these contrasting environments contribute to your upbringing, and did they influence your creative outlook?

When my mother moved us from the countryside to the largest local city, I went from being part of comparative local nobility to being nobody. I was picked on. Eventually my mother freed me from the teaching of “turn the other cheek,” and encouraged me to fight back. That worked. Rising to bullies was a big part of what animated me as a lawyer. Working on the farm, seeing how hard the farm labourers worked, and seeing the low wages that they were paid, gave me an early appreciation for the struggles of working people. That appreciation was deepened in the various jobs I had later as I worked my way through law school: jobs in government, the post office, and in heavy industry. It gave rise to my political activism as a student and as adult for causes of social justice. The fact that my mother was always pointing out beauty whether we were in the country or the city, gave me an educated eye to see beauty everywhere, and that would include clouds, sunrises and sunsets, fields, pastures, barns, historic buildings, parks, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes.

Photographer, Retoucher, Creative Director: Michael Nash - @michaelnashphotographer
Model, Wardrobe Stylist: Mina B -
Hair and make-up: Milad Taherzadeh -
Assistant: Ahmad Karim - @karimpix

3. With your parents' separation at an early age, how did this unique family dynamic impact your formative years, and how did your father's photography studio, albeit unconventional, influence your early exposure to the world of photography?

As I look back on the many photographs my father took of me, the only truly innocently happy one is of me as a baby, probably about six months old, before my parents’ separation. All after that are masterful work yet I see myself in them as wistful, longing for something but not knowing what it was. My father was a quiet man who shared very little, so we had an emotionally remote connection for my formative years. Looking back, I’m pretty sure what I was longing for was a happy and united family. Especially since becoming a photographer myself I can see that in portraiture in particular when you take pictures over time, there’s a lot of honesty revealed. Actor Patrick Stewart recalls that an actor mentor Rod Steiger had said to him, “The camera photographs thoughts.”

4. You mentioned owing your eye for beauty to your mother. Can you elaborate on specific instances or experiences during your travels to England, the British Isles, Paris, and Rome that further shaped your appreciation for beauty and art?

In England we went to theatrical productions in London and Stratford-upon-Avon. I can still recall a few of the plays we saw: “School for Scandal” by Richard Sheridan; “My Fair Lady,” by Lerner and Lowe; “MacBeth” and “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare; “The Music Man,” by Meredith Willson; “The Mousetrap,” by Agatha Christie; “Blitz” by Lionel Bart, and “Bye Bye Birdie,” by Michael Stewart. We spent a lot of time at the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. I still have hanging on a wall a poster she bought of an exhibition we saw at the National Gallery on Leonardo da Vinci. I still have on my shelf a book I bought at the National Portrait Gallery, “British Historical Portraits.” London and other cities we visited in the UK and Ireland–like Coventry, Brighton, Portsmouth, Canterbury, Wells, Winchester, Edinburgh, Dublin–are full of architectural and artistic treasures, notably cathedrals and monuments. The countryside is marked with castles and palaces, some in ruins, some restored or maintained throughout, and we visited all that we could. They fired up my imagination of life and battles of medieval times. In Paris, my mother took me to the Folies Bergère where as an eleven year old boy I got to see more female pulchritude than my mother anticipated. She wanted to leave before it was over. I wanted to stay. We stayed. She also took me to the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Bastille, the Invalides, the Palace of Versailles, Notre-Dame and dozens of other historical, artistic and architectural wonders. In Rome I remember we went to the Galleria Borghese, the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel, the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Spanish Steps, the Victor Emmanual Monument, and the Roman Forum. Again, as an eleven year old boy, I was pretty thrilled to drink red wine with my pasta. I also learned how to eat spaghetti by twirling a few strands on the end of my fork pressed against a spoon. All the while, I got a running commentary from my mother on what was beautiful and from her and tour guides what was historic and why. I was a keen learner. Having already been an avid reader thanks to my mother-who by the way never had a television until after I’d left home–all this history, all this art in galleries in pubic, all this architecture, all the pastoral serenity of the English and Irish countrysides, this cultural feast was mine to savour and I did.

5. Moving beyond your career in law, what prompted your transition to photography as a passionate pursuit during your retirement, and how do you balance the legal mindset with the artistic freedom of photography?

Many people who aren’t familiar with both law or photography don’t see that it’s immediately obvious that there could be a transference of skills from one to the other. I have found that there is a fair bit of transference. At least the way I practiced law, I already had a creative bent. I was able to imagine arguments that did not occur to everybody. I had a flourish with the language, which helped a lot in writing legal documents. Yet the most notable transferable skills are the need for preparation, readiness to encounter the unexpected, attention to detail, the need for precision, the ability to listen, empathy, and the importance of rapport with one’s clients. Those made me a good lawyer, and they have stood me in good stead as a photographer. In the last ten years of my father’s life, it happened that I needed to spend a lot of time with him because he had become so dependent. He lost a lot of his memory in a particular episode and so I had to become his memory, learning about his past from relatives and friends some of whom I’d never met before, a history he had never confided to me. I communicated his past to him through stories I’d been told and photo albums I put together. I had to sort through all his belongings as he was dying, and dredged up many of his old photographs. I think that spending so much time with him, doing those photo albums, rifling through his memorabilia united with the nostalgia I had for the days in his studio, inspired me to take up the creativity that had been his outlet. At a deeper more mysterious level, as I look back now I think I wanted to my father to approve of me, and taking up his passion as my own might have seemed like a way to do that. Nonetheless, it was an easy transition I was happy to make.

6. Reflecting on your academic journey, how has your background in Politics and Philosophy from Brock University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Toronto contributed to your creative process and perspective as a photographer?

I chose Politics and Philosophy because I was already interested in politics and philosophy as a teenager. I’ve mentioned that working on the farm and seeing the tough work done for low pay done by the farm labourers, and that had given me a heart for social justice issues. My reading had given me an interest in big questions, so those course choices seemed natural. Law came to me as a spontaneous idea sparked by my best friend telling me he was going to write the Law School Admission Test. I had already won a scholarship to do a Masters of Arts in Politics at Montreal’s prestigious McGill University but this idea of law school struck me as a better plan. I figured if I did the Masters I would end up in an academic ivory tower but if I went to law school I could get my hands dirty in the real world of people’s struggles and conflicts. Reflecting on the relationship between those educational and career choices and photography, I would say that the fields of politics, philosophy and law have given me expansive horizons, an educated imagination, and a curiosity for learning. Those are tremendously valuable assets for a photographer.

7. The loss of your close friend and mentor, Paul Iacoviello, had a profound impact on your photography journey. Could you share more about how his mentorship influenced your approach to model photography, and how you've carried forward his legacy?

Paul had a wide photographic interest–travel, architecture, portraiture–but his main passion was model photography. In the selection of his own pictures he used to illustrate his teaching, model photographs predominated. The first assignment in his course was to bring back the results of a shoot on “The Human Form.” I would say that working on that assignment with a simply lovely model–a model with tons of experience willing to work with me a rank amateur– and then getting an A+ from Paul cemented my interest in model photography. It was after that A+ that Paul approached me about doing some shoots together. He and I planned and did two model photography sessions, one in an auto boneyard and one at a beach on Lake Erie. They amounted to a prolonged tutorial for me on how to locate a model in relation to the sun and the surroundings, how to use a reflector, the need to know what you’re looking for in the shoot, the need to know your camera and its functions, and how to relate to a model, namely with clarity, respect and humour. Paul nearly always shot outdoors and engaged a hair and make up artist, which he did on those two shoots. He believed in simplicity. He didn’t engage in elaborate post-processing with imagined backdrops. I’ve followed his lead in all these areas. Paul introduced me to several people and places who have become important to me, two hair and make up artists, two models, that boneyard, and that beach. One of those models is none other than Mina, the supremely elegant fashionista who is the subject of this present editorial Eclair is publishing. Paul also showed me immense compassion. At one point I was in a very depressed state, ready to leave my wife. One of the issues between her and me was my interest in photography, though far from the only or the most basic of the issues. He correctly intuited that while I was away on a long holiday without my wife, I’d be ruminating about how bad things had gotten. He called me several times during that trip, quietly and gently talking me off the ledge, He shared his own tension on this topic with his own wife and how they handled it. Little by little, his prompting got me back on a sane track.

8. Precision and methodical planning characterize your approach to work. Could you provide insights into how your legal career's need for precision manifests in your artistic process, and how art, particularly paintings and sculptures, continues to inspire your photography?

I can give you a few examples of planning. You learn about planning from having to prepare for court appearances, where anything can and often does happen. If inspiration pictures are relevant I make sure I’ve sent them out to everyone, or received them from my team. I do a detailed set of notes for each shoot after we’ve worked through all the details which we do usually through Instagram Direct, and send them out to the team. They cover the location(s), the agenda, the sequence of events, the looks, the wardrobe, everyone’s contact information and checklists. I do a detailed contract with the model setting out all the terms that apply to the preparation, the shoot itself and the use of the photos resulting from the shoot. I take a bag I call the “Everything Bag,” which contains everything that I’ve learned can be needed on a shoot, ranging from door stoppers to garbage bags. I find out what food and drink is going to work for everyone and I bring that along. I normally offer to treat everyone to a meal too. I bring everything out the night before and check what I’ve got assembled against the checklist in my notes. I charge all my batteries. I check for adequate memory cards.

9. While personal creativity remains a driving force, could you share specific instances or projects that have brought you the most professional satisfaction, especially when others appreciate and showcase your work?

I do have a lot of highlights but for the sake of space and knowing that I may hurt others by not mentioning my times with them, I’ll only mention some of them. I’d have to say each of my five shoots with Mina has been among the best photographic experiences of my career because Mina is supremely stylish, spontaneous, energetic, bold and experienced. On this last shoot, she borrowed original fashions from creative designers, brought her own originally designed fashions and recruited the very talented hair and make up artist Milad Taherzadeh Two other highlights have been with Starla @modeladventurer. One involved getting her up into a niche on a public bridge, where the bottom of the niche was twelve feet from the sidewalk, and where she was going to do implied nude neo-classical poses in keeping with the classical look of the niche while four lanes of late afternoon rush hour traffic raced by. We tried to minimize the risk of police involvement by the rest of the team dressing up like city workers and putting out orange traffic cones. It worked! The other was a four day location shoot on Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a remote windy archipelago in the Gulf of St Lawrence, part of the province of Québec, along with her friend Andie Lavictoire @andie_modele_official. It was after tourist season, and right after a hurricane had come through, so we had the red sandstone and the beaches all to ourselves. The last highlight I’ll mention is a two day location shoot near Chilliwack, British Columbia, shooting with 49 year old model Kristine @krisru03. In preparation for this shoot I literally stumbled upon an idyllic pool of mirror-like water surrounded by lush growth and fallen trees. It felt like I’d found a polished emerald. Kristine and her friend she brought as an assistant had suggestions for dramatic poses and places: a secluded waterfalls, a little used highway and an abandoned bridge. The unifying factors in these and the other highlights of my photographic career are that everyone was performing at the top of their game, full of energy, enthusiasm, and good ideas and that advance planning made spontaneity possible.

10. Balancing personal and professional life can be challenging. How do you navigate your roles as a father, grandfather, docent, political activist, traveller, and sports enthusiast alongside your photography career?

How do these diverse interests influence your artistic vision? It is not always easy to achieve a proper balance of all these roles and activities. Here are a few things I do to try to achieve a balance. When I travel I often build in a photoshoot or maybe more than one photoshoot so that I can get the experience of travel and photography at the same time. That can happen on long trips and it can happen on short trips for example when I visit one of my sons who lives in Montreal. Whenever I’m travelling I am always on the lookout for venues just in case I should be back that way again and have an opportunity for a shoot. I get a lot of bonding time with my oldest son Gabriel because we have season’s tickets to our local Canadian Football League team and we go to the championship, the Grey Cup almost every year. Plus we go on an annual vacation together. I have a cottage where I intentionally don’t have my photo editing program, so when I’m there with family I don’t get pre-occupied with editing and can just be with family, garden or read. I am pretty consistent to yield my time to the needs of family, my wife, any of my sons, my grandchildren and extended family. Two areas where I admit I’ve let photography use up some of the room I used to have for them are the volunteer docent work and political activism. Not that I give no time to them, but less time than I used to. Even though I spend less time doing the docent work, the world of art continues to exert a large influence on my photography, influenced as I am by past, modern and contemporary art. On my travels I always take in the local public art and the galleries that there may be. I would say that the influence of my mother, always attuned to art and the beautiful, is with me all the time


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