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.
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.
CHARLES PETERSON / CHARLESPETERSON.NET
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.
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.
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 www.charlespeterson.net 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)
Screaming Life : A Chronicle of the Seattle Music Scene, Charles Peterson (Author, Photographer) (Harper Collins, 1995)
Pearl Jam: Place/Date, Charles Peterson (Author), Lance Mercer (Author) (Rizzoli/Vitalogy, 1997)
Cypher, Jeff Chang (Author), Charles Peterson (Photographer), (PowerHouse Books 2008)
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)
Films featuring Charles Peterson:
All apologies : Kurt Cobain 10 years (2006)
The Last 48 hours of Kurt Cobain (2007)
Seven ages of rock (2007)
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.