10 rare & intimate photos of Kurt Cobain

Photographer Charles Peterson captured these photos of the former Nirvana frontman, which give a unique glimpse into his short, but brilliant life.

1, Advocate Magazine photo shoot, Jan. 1, 1993


“A picture of him just smiling in his PJ’s… It’s the most intimate photo shoot I did with him. It was just in the hotel room they were renting in downtown Seattle. No one would lease them a house because of their reputation at that point. It was a nice hotel but kind of awkward. I just love this moment. There’s something about the smile. He’s not necessarily playing it for the camera. It’s more like this lightbulb went off almost… I recall his socks were so dirty, and I [thought], ‘Oh Jesus dude, you’re a freaking multi-millionaire, buy yourself some new ones.’ [laughs]”

2, Nirvana live, Raji’s, L.A., 1990

Photographer Charles Peterson: “Everything just came together, partly because the club was so small and the crowd so enthusiastic and I was just on. I got some really amazing photos. The woman on the far left who has hair in her face, that’s actually Donita Sparks from the band L7. Kurt is throwing himself back and forth and [Sparks’ friend’s] finger is inches away from his face. When you can incorporate the audience into [a shot], it tells that much more of the story. Sometimes you go someplace and people just stand around. I think it was the L7 girls that were really inspirational that night. Sometimes it just takes a few people from the crowd to make it come together.”

3, Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean’s first birthday party, 1993

“This is actually the first time it’s been shown. It’s just a great moment of him and Frances. This is the house in Lake City [Seattle] that somebody finally rented to them, in the kitchen. I think he was a little overwhelmed too [that day] because I’ve got a picture somewhere of the living room and just dozens of toys. Somebody bought a trike and put an anarchy symbol on it. Which was great. But at the same time, after the guests were gone, he just looked at me and shook his head. I said, ‘A lot of stuff, huh?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ He lived a pretty simple life. He didn’t come from money.”

4, Nirvana live, Motorsports International Garage, Seattle 1990

“This is Kurt doing one of his Pete Townshend-style jumps. I can’t tell if I caught him on the way up or the way down. But I love the angelic, almost relaxed look on his face [as if it’s] the easiest thing in the world to do. And then of course, after his suicide, the photo took on even deeper import, this floating-to-heaven almost feel to it.” This [venue] held almost 1000 people… At that point it was the biggest audience I’d seen [for] them. The crowd was so crazy enthusiastic and there were English journalists there. You could really tell they were on the cusp.”

5, Backstage at a Seattle Neil Young/Sonic Youth concert, 1991

“[Kurt’s chatting with] Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth. This was after their set and everyone went up to the dressing room. First we did a lineup photo with the members of Sonic Youth and Nirvana and some contest winners, a posed thing. After that, I was taking candids of people talking. I could tell that Kurt was pretty starstruck talking to Kim [though] I’m sure they’d met before on the road. It was before ‘Nevermind’ was released.”

6, Nirvana live, University of Washington HUB Ballroom, 1989

“This show was before ‘Bleach’ was released. They were the openers for The Fluid. The thing I love about this photo is it encapsulated everything that I was trying to do with my photography at the time, trying to capture this texture and emotion of what these musicians were doing with their guitars and hair and ripped jeans. This is really what [you saw] when you saw Kurt Cobain play back then. A few years later, I took one almost identical of Courtney Love facing the other way. When I did my book ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ they did a special edition of it with prints in a box set and I did these two, this one of Kurt and the other one of Courtney.”

7, Kurt Cobain, journalist Everett True, Krist Novoselic, Sub Pop’s Bruce Pavitt, San Francisco c. 1989-90

“This is before their show that night. We were just leaving the apartment that we were staying at, Bruce and I. This is just a snapshot; I had a point and shoot camera. I didn’t take very many of these kind of pictures for whatever reason, and I should have taken more. I just dug this one up recently. I love the $1.09 gas. It really puts [the photo] in time.”

8, Nirvana live, Reading Festival, 1992

“I was one of the few photographers invited to the side of the stage. To one side of me was a sea of 45,000 people who’d all been drenched in rain and mud that day. And another 30 feet out was Kurt — [it was] huge stage, especially for three guys to command. About four songs in, he paused and he looked at me and in body language was like, ‘Everything ok over there?” I took his picture and I gave him a thumbs up. He gave me a little nod. Like, ‘How are [Nirvana] doing?’ You’re doing f*cking amazing… Rumors [had been] swirling that he was too sick to play so that’s why he [jokingly] wore the hospital gown and they wheeled him out in a wheelchair. He was just playing up to it.”

9, Nirvana live, Motorsports International Garage, Seattle 1990

910, Nirvana’s Alternative Press magazine cover shoot, 1993

“What I like about this is the fact that you see all of the artifice and you see how low rent it is. There’s a mop, which is kind of a great reference to the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit ” video when the janitor is dancing with the mop. [Eventually] the band started to flag. Kurt especially was tired. They had to do other photo shoots after this one. Kurt, God bless him, at the end of the couple hours was like, ‘Are you sure you got enough. We can take some more?’ I should have taken him up on it. But this is my favorite photo from the day. They do look happy. They do look like a unit. They look like a band. I didn’t dig it up until recently.”   Via Imgur