Nearly eighteen years after his death on April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain remains an instantly recognizable icon. The Nirvana frontman and beleaguered rock star may always be the first image that comes to mind when the entire genre he popularized in American is considered, and a new collection of photographs will only further cement his status as grunge rock’s posterchild.
Jesse Frohman was just a recent graduate returning to New York City after earning a degree in economics. Though he had little professional work to his name, he caught the eye of a certain Irving Penn. Penn hired him to run his studio, and Frohman didn’t waste any chance to learn from the master.
The intersection of Frohman’s life and Cobain’s eventual downward spiral in November of 1993, five months before the latter’s death. By the time of the session, Cobain had already been in and out of rehab, suffered one heroin overdose and toured while withdrawing from heroin addiction. Through Frohman’s lens, Cobain appears perhaps equal parts goofball and troubled rock god.
Though it’s now of course to separate Cobain’s suicide at the age of 27 from any consideration of his personality, there’s a certain forced, blase feel about some of the photographs. Frohman said the first thing Cobain asked for when he arrived, hours late, to the shoot was a bucket to vomit in.
“You know, he was very stoned, yet he was coherent on some level and gone on another level,” Frohman adds. “I had met people like that before, but this was unique because I was shooting someone with these glasses on. He wouldn’t take the glasses off, so I couldn’t really make eye contact easily.”
Frohman’s collection opens on April 6 at New York’s Morrison Hotel Gallery, and will run through April 23.
PHOTOS: Kurt Cobain Photographed by Jesse Frohman:
CORRECTION: We originally wrote that it was eight years, not eighteen years, since Kurt Cobain’s death. We swear we can count.