Kurt Cobain Photographer Jesse Frohman on Lensing an Icon

It Smells Like Teen Spirit down on Prince St. at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. This month, floor to ceiling prints of Kurt Cobain‘s most famous photos hang as a testament to the power of the legendary music and style icon. In November of 1993, photographer Jesse Frohman got a call from the London Observer Sunday Times Magazine to shoot the Nirvana frontman for the cover of the next issue. With a handful of his own clothing, Kurt Cobain showed up to the basement of a conference room on the day of his Roseland Ballroom show, and let his personality pour through Frohman’s lens. Jesse takes us back to that day, where nerdy kid scientist t-shirts got cool, and Kurt Cobain nearly puked in a bucket. Teen spirit, indeed.

Kurt Cobain Photographer Jesse Frohman on Lensing an Icon

How long did you spend with Kurt Cobain for this epic shoot?

20-30 minutes max, but not by my choosing.

How did the styling go down?

He didn’t really change much. He came with a few things in his hand. I put one thing on and another thing off. But it wasn’t like, let’s get him in the dressing room and style him up.

(Read on)

Jesse Frohman on the right, Morrison Hotel Gallery owner Peter Blachley on the left

Were you a Nirvana fan before the shoot?
Oh yea, I was a huge fan!

What was it like meeting him as opposed to what you expected?
I had no preconceptions. I only have preconceptions when I’m told. I shot Woody Allen, I remember, and I had no idea what he was going to be like. In fact he turned out to be as neurotic as he is in his movies. With Kurt, nobody told me what to expect. All I knew was that he wasn’t interested in media hype. He wasn’t about the fame or the attention. And I figured he wouldn’t want to do a lot of pictures. I knew I had to be quick and organized. So in that sense I was prepared. In terms of his personality, I didn’t know if he was going to be real jovial and friendly and helpful and collaborative, or if he was going to be difficult. In fact, he was really nice.

Photo by Karli Cadel