Less than six months before the death of iconic singer-songwriter, Kurt Cobain, photographer Jesse Frohman was commissioned by the London Observer Magazine to do a cover shoot of the seminal Grunge music band, Nirvana.
It was November 1993, and Nirvana were at the peak of their career, having just finished recording the MTV Unplugged album, the band were gearing up for even bigger things and a possible change of direction.
The acoustic Unplugged set, which was released posthumously as an album in 1994, may have provided a hint of Cobain’s future musical direction. The record drew comparisons to R.E.M.’s 1992 release, Automatic for the People, and in 1993, Cobain himself predicted that the next Nirvana album would be “pretty ethereal, acoustic, like R.E.M.’s last album.”
“Yeah, he talked a lot about what direction he was heading in,” Cobain’s friend, R.E.M.’s lead singer Michael Stipe, told Newsweek in 1994. “I mean, I know what the next Nirvana recording was going to sound like. It was going to be very quiet and acoustic, with lots of stringed instruments. It was going to be an amazing fucking record. He and I were going to record a trial run of the album, a demo tape. It was all set up. He had a plane ticket. He had a car picking him up. And at the last minute he called and said, ‘I can’t come.'”
As Jesse Frohman and his assistants prepared for the shoot, which at the last minute changed venue from outdoors to a New York hotel room, Jesse started to become frustrated. He had imagined the shoot would go very differently.
He recalls, “I was a big fan of Nirvana when I shot them. They were at the peak of their career at that point, and I was excited to get a cover story for a good magazine. I was hoping to get pictures that weren’t in any way typical band photos, instead hoping for more casual and spontaneous pictures in a natural environment.”
Jesse goes on, “I planned to shoot them in Central Park and on the streets of NY, but that plan was nixed because Kurt couldn’t make it out of the hotel, and whilst Krist Novoselic & Dave Grohl showed up right on time, Cobain showed up 3 hours later, turning a 5 hour scheduled shoot outdoors into a compressed 20 minute in a room in the basement of the hotel.”
“When he did arrive he was wearing the white Jackie O sunglasses with his chin practically resting on his chest. Clearly he was out of it…”
What resulted, however, was one of the most symbolic band shoots of all time, and the pictures of Kurt Cobain became some of the most recognized images taken of the troubled star.
“Privately, I was very disappointed with the experience. When I got the contacts back from the lab, however, I saw these fantastic images. The simplicity of the gray backround turned out to be a godsend as it added to the iconic nature of the pictures.”
Yes, Nirvana was labeled “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as “the spokesman of a generation”. It’s widely known that Cobain was often uncomfortable with this title and frustrated, believing his message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, with his personal issues often subject to media attention.
During the last years of his life (and at the exact point in which Frohman captured him), Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love.
It seems that some of this sadness and aggravation was perfectly caught in Frohman’s imagery, making the pictures all the more touching and everlasting.
Jesse Frohman, is paying homage to his fallen idol in an exclusive exhibition at NYC’s Morrison Gallery, which launches this Thursday, 5th April 2012 – the exact anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain.
Images from this shoot will be on display, and a host of VIP guests will attend to view & appreciate the essence of this amazing time in history.
Following the advance showing of the exhibition at Morrison Hotel Gallery, a private after-party will take place at the Tribeca Grand Hotel for VIP guests and attendees of the exhibition, with a LIVE performance by The Virgins, DJ sets by Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Jason Buckle (Relaxed Muscle), Tennessee Thomas and Mike Nouveau, with other special guests to be announced.JESSE FROHMAN’S KURT COBAIN IMAGES APRIL 6-23, 2012 MORRISON HOTEL GALLERY 124 PRINCE STREET NEW YORK, NY 10012 www.jessefrohman.com