Review

Charles Peterson

Nirvana

Minor Matters Books • 2024

It took grunge photographer Charles Peterson thirty years to create a photo book on Nirvana, the band that changed the rock world forever with just five albums in six short years. Peterson’s black and white photographs, taken between February 1989 and August 1993, have lost none of their energy, power and immediacy over these three decades—quite the opposite in fact: Looking at these pictures, you can not only hear Krist Novoselic’s pounding bass lines, Kurt Cobain’s shrieking guitars and harrowing screams, you can also smell the sweat and beer, the cold smoke and testosterone of the predominantly male audience.

Immerse yourself in the Seattle of the 1990s

The dozen live shows documented here show how close Peterson got with his camera to the band and stage divers. Sometimes blurred by flash or long exposure times, these images allow you to relive one of the most important periods in rock history, one that you were, unfortunately, probably too young to experience (if you were on this earth at all) and likely not in Seattle. Noticeable is that drummers Chad Channing and Dave Grohl are rarely pictured—probably due to the poor lighting behind the drums and cymbals, which were often in the way—and that neither Krist Novoselic’s foreword nor Peterson’s afterword mention Courtney Love; she appears in only one photograph. This shows how ambivalent (to say the least) the relationship between the remaining band members and her still seems, and also how overly masculine the grunge scene was—something Kurt Cobain himself found despairing.