The Man Behind the Lens: Charles Peterson

If there is one photographer’s name that is instantaneously synonymous with the Seattle music scene, it would undisputedly be Charles Peterson. During the reign of Sub Pop, he was in the midst of it all, capturing historical photos of bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Mud Honey, Pearl Jam, Green River and many many many many more “grunge” heavyweights.

Peterson’s ability to take incredible photos of concert crowds and translate the intensity of the motions in the mosh pit into print is just one dimension of his massive talent.  Of course, we all love to see images of our favorite front men crooning into the mic, but during the days before camera phones, the way Peterson turned the camera on to the crowd helped encapsulate the vibe that defined that transitional era of music.



The Seattle audiences were entertaining. I didn’t want to just get a head shot of the lead singer. I wanted to get the experience, make you actually feel like you’re there. ... I like the composition part of shooting. The way my eyes and brain work together — I’m constantly composing with or without a camera.
— Charles Peterson

With a knack for capturing movement, Charles has also taken some incredible photographs of Soundgarden in action, especially from the early days which we affectionately refer to as Babygarden.


It wasn’t long before Charles Peterson achieved cult status among music fans not just in Seattle, but all over the world. Just the other day fellow friend and fan found a print of his while walking down the streets of Bologna, Italy. His images truly can be found everywhere from iconic album covers to music publications and zines dating back to the 80s and 90s. Check your local record store or music museum; you will probably come across a Charles Peterson piece.

Scene from the documentary HYPE!

Scene from the documentary HYPE!

Many people may recognize Charles from his memorable cameo in the indie docu-flick called HYPE! In his segments, he’s sitting on the ground completely surrounded by photos he took from various gigs, stopping to comment on several memories tied to specific photographs.

HYPE! celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017 with a re-release with extra footage

HYPE! celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017 with a re-release with extra footage

We just so happened to be in Seattle for the 20th anniversary screening of HYPE! and had the privilege of hearing Charles Peterson speak during the live commentary portion of the event. Though soft spoken, Charles has many wise words when he speaks about the music scene that so many young people today admire and fantasize about today. His speaking portion begins around the 9-minute mark.

Being in the same room as this magnanimous panel of “grunge” greats was an awesome experience and it was comforting to hear them speak about Chris and his impact on the Seattle music scene. Check out more details from that event here.

Though Charles mostly keeps a low profile, his portfolio boasts pictures that span the realm of sweaty grunge shows and into beautiful scenic photography from his travels and candid photos from events like Sundance Festival. Take a moment to visit his website to explore just how talented our favorite grunge photographer is.

We want to extend a huge THANK YOU to Charles Peterson for all of the crucial and memorable work he has done photographing artists of the Seattle music scene and beyond. Without his skilled eye for capturing our favorite artists in their element, we wouldn’t have all of these beautiful pictures to look back on and remember those whom we have lost.

For fine art prints please contact Charles for direct sale pricing.

For more Charles Peterson check out the following publications:

  • Touch Me I'm Sick, by Jennie Boddy (Author), Eddie Vedder (Author, Introduction), Charles Peterson (Photographer)(PowerHouse, 2003)

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

  • Screaming Life : A Chronicle of the Seattle Music Scene, Charles Peterson (Author, Photographer) (Harper Collins, 1995)

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

  • Pearl Jam: Place/Date, Charles Peterson (Author), Lance Mercer (Author) (Rizzoli/Vitalogy, 1997)

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

  • Cypher, Jeff Chang (Author), Charles Peterson (Photographer), (PowerHouse Books 2008)

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

You can also catch mentions of Charles Peterson in Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm (not to be confused with Mark Arm)

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

Films featuring Charles Peterson:

  • All apologies : Kurt Cobain 10 years (2006)

  • The Last 48 hours of Kurt Cobain (2007) 

  • Seven ages of rock (2007)

  • Hype! (1996) 

  • Photographs were used in Cobain : Montage of Heck (2015) 

  • Too young to die : Kurt Cobain (2012)

We dedicate this post in memory of Othello, the most handsome babushka on four legs.

We Will Be Attending The 20th Anniversary Screening Of HYPE ! In Seattle, Sept. 25th

If we are able to get any photos or anything else to share, we will of course share here.

Source (


USA |  1996 |  84 minutes |  Doug Pray

September 25, 2017

Local Sightings Film Festival (Northwest Film Forum) co-presented by SIFF

Join us for a 20th anniversary screening of Hype!, the legendary rock documentary from director Doug Pray, and drop back into the Seattle of the early ‘90s as the underground music scene exploded into the global pop culture phenomenon of “grunge.” Hype! uses rare concert footage and insider interviews to trace the movement from its subversive start in neighborhood basements to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hitting number 1 on the charts. As the popularity of the genre grew and “grunge fashion” hit the runways, questions of money, authenticity and fame come to a head. The Northwest experience is one of humor, loss, and epic irony. Hype! has live performances by Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, and more.

Special pricing - $16, $13 for SIFF and NWFF Members


Monday, September 25, 2017

Live performance:

The band playing before the screening is the Schmidtheads, a spin-off of legendary late ‘80s proto-grunge band The Thrown Ups. Three of the Schmidtheads (Leighton Beezer, Ed Fotheringham, and Scott Schickler), were featured on the seminal 1988 release, Sub Pop 200, which has been called “The Mayflower of Grunge.” A fourth member, Jo Smitty, was in the early ‘80s band Mr. Epp and the Calculations (which was also Mark Arm and Steve Turner’s first band, long before Mudhoney formed).


The screening will be introduced by legendary radio DJ Marco Collins, who helped introduce grunge to the world in the early ‘90s on Seattle’s “The End” 107.7FM.

Other attendees:

Invitations are still going out and we’re awaiting word from a number of invited guests, but we have confirmations from the following, all of whom are featured prominently in Hype!(and also were interviewed for Doug Pray's 2017 short film "Hype! 20 Years After” which is a bonus feature on the new Blu-Ray / DVD re-release of Hype!). There will be a Q&A after the film which they’ve been invited to participate in:

Mark Arm (lead singer Mudhoney)

Jack Endino, producer (Nirvana, Soundgarden, etc.)

Charles Peterson, photographer

Steve Fisk, producer (Screaming Trees, Beat Happening)

Lulu Gargiulo (Fastbacks)

Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows, numerous bands)

Filmmakers attending: Director/Editor Doug Pray, Producers Pete Vogt and Lisa Dutton, Cinematographers Lars Larson and Lulu Gargiulo, and more TBD.

  • Director: Doug Pray
  • Principal Cast: Mark Arm, Chris Cornell, Matt Cameron, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 84 minutes
  • Producer: Steve Helvey, Peter Vogt, Lisa Dutton
  • Cinematographers: Rob Bennett, Lars Larson, Lulu Gargiulo