In August of 1993, Nirvana was in New York to perform at the legendary Roseland Ballroom to promote the release of In Utero, the third and final studio album by the band. Jesse Frohman was hired to photograph Nirvana by London’s The Observer Sunday magazine while they were in town. This would turn out to be the last formal shoot for which Cobain was photographed before he committed suicide on April 5th, 1994.
Marking the 20th anniversary of his death, Thames & Hudson has published Kurt Cobain: The Last Session by Jesse Frohman. It is a beautifully designed art book filled with a rich edit of images of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana from the shoot that day. The book, which includes many previously unpublished images, is an insider’s look at Nirvana and Frohman’s now famous shoot. The image shown above is the color cover image for which there is also a black & white variation.
Also commemorating the anniversary is this new Kurt Cobain snowboard produced by Endeavor Snowboards, that features one of the most iconic photographs of Kurt Cobain ever taken from that shoot. Frohman was approached by Endeavor to create a special limited edition “artist collaboration” board, which had obvious appeal and timed perfectly with the release of the book.
Says Max Jenke, Creative Director of Endeavor, “I first saw Jesse’s photo at the Morrison Hotel Gallery, which has an insane collection of music photographs. These ones of Kurt are absolutely legendary though and I always wanted one! When we started discussing the early release program of boards, we wanted to add an amazing graphic story to the new tech we were releasing (The Channel by Burton). Music has always influenced our graphics, whether it was album covers, music videos, or the songs themselves. Nirvana was a band all of us listened to growing up and it happened to be the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death this year, so it all came together.”
I recently sat down with Jesse, an old friend of mine, to find out more about the shoot, the book, and the board. I first saw the snowboard on the Instagram feed of the uber hip and chic Paris boutique, Colette, where Jesse told me two boards were made available for a book signing at the store. Even though I’ve known Jesse for a long time, we had never talked about photographing Nirvana that day.
“I was doing a lot of studio work at the time, but wanted to shake it up a bit and shoot them on location,” he told me. “I had an idea to do these old ‘60s style pictures of bands, shot with a wide angle lens, out in Central Park on a rock or something.” Even though he had been given five hours for the shoot, Jesse knew they had to move quickly to keep their attention. He had a team waiting on location, a production van downstairs, but when they arrived at the hotel to meet the band, the manager told them they would have to shoot there.
“What do you mean we have to shoot here?” Jesse asked, “In the hotel? We’re not shooting here. That’s not what we discussed with the magazine.” But he was told he didn’t have a choice and a conference room had been reserved. “Luckily I had a seamless (gray backdrop) in the van and location strobe lights and we set that up.”
Band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic arrived first, but no Cobain. About three and a half hours later Kurt rolled in with a pile of clothes under his arm, from which came the inimitable combination of trapper hat, white sunglasses, patched jeans, and black Converse Jack Purcells. “I knew I was lucky he showed up, because I’ve been in situations like this where shoots just get cancelled,” Jesse remarked. “He asked me if I had a bucket, and I said yes, and asked him what for. And he says, ‘Cause I think I’m gonna puke.’ He didn’t puke luckily, but we did have the bucket just outside the frame the whole shoot. It turns out he actually OD’d the night before.”
Jesse and I joked, that like Bert Stern, Kurt Cobain is his Marilyn Monroe. Quite a different kind of icon, although similar in many ways. The Kurt Cobain snowboard is now on sale at Endeavor Snowboards, and is collector’s item not to be missed. For more information about Jesse Frohman go to jessefrohman.com and for print sales contact: firstname.lastname@example.org