My Next Read: “Charles Peterson’s Nirvana”

For millennia, “nirvana” has been a term associated with belief systems of the Indian subcontinent. But in 1988, a band from a small coastal town in Washington state decided to create some new associations with this word . . . through their music.

Active for just six years, Nirvana left an indelible mark on the late twentieth century that remains visible today. Photographer and self-described “music fanatic” Charles Peterson, a fellow twenty-something from the suburbs of Seattle, was present with his camera as a genre took form, and his images have become synonymous with the sounds, styles, movement and attitude known as Grunge.

Charles Peterson’s Nirvana, in the tradition of many great documentary photobooks, expands beyond Peterson’s iconic images of the band seen repeatedly over the last thirty years (on album covers, in magazines, and in dozens of compilation books and exhibitions focused on this music and its birth era) to highlight gems never before published. Over a five-year photo edit, Peterson looked at each one of thousands of frames, considering what drew him to Nirvana in the first place—their music. He honed in on compositions that stimulated visceral memories of their live performances.

The resulting selection of photographs and their carefully constructed sequence mash up venues and years, suffering and the sublime, to arrive at a visual experience that one cannot help but also feel, and hear.