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Kurt Cobain Photographs on Show for First Time at NYC Gallery

Kurt Cobain, only months before he passed away in April 1994.
Kurt Cobain, only months before he passed away in April 1994.
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Jesse Frohman

MANHATTAN — Never-before seen photographs of Grunge idol and rock star Kurt Cobain will be on view for the first time in SoHo starting Friday.

The exhibit "Kurt Cobain by Jesse Frohman" reveals the singer in his final days, only months before his death shocked Nirvana fans around the world.

The exhibition, slated to run at Prince Street's Morrison Hotel Gallery in conjuction with the 18th anniversary of the star's death, unveils the gritty world of the singer considered to be the posterchild for the Grunge movement of the 1990s.

"He seemed very fragile to me," celebrity photographer Frohman said about his last photo shoot with the Nirvana singer, which he chose to reveal 18 years after the singer's death.

"It really shows to me the iconic rock star side that you can look up to, but also the fragile and sensitive side of him."

The candid portraits were taken by the New York-based photographer at the Omni Hotel on the Upper East Side. The nineteen images — about half of which have never been shown before —  show Cobain in a vintage air force cap, Jackie O. sunglasses and a leopard skin jacket.

"He was quite a bit out of it, but at the same time very expressive," Frohman said. "I just wanted to take care of him."

What was originally slated to be a four-hour photo shoot turned into a twenty minute frenzy that was "full of energy," Frohman said, due to the fact that the star was over three hours late. Frohman suspected he was on drugs because of his sluggish demeanor — and the fact that he asked for a bucket to vomit in shortly after arriving.

"I just had to absorb him," Frohman said. "I had to mold him a few times, like silly putty. It took patience."

By November 1993, when the photo shoot took place, Cobain had already been in and out of rehab and suffered one heroin overdose.

Despite the flashy clothes, and his sluggish behavior, Frohman added that Cobain was easy to shoot because he was so open and unpretentious.

"He was very sweet and quiet, and also very into his own space and mind at that time," he added. "He really bared himself to me."

Kobain was one of several stars that Frohamn has photographed, among Winona Ryder, Lenny Kravitz and Woody Allen.

At the exhibit opening, held Thursday night to coincide with the anniversary of Cobain's death, gallery owner Peter Blachley said he was thrilled to have the exhibit run in his space because of the artistic nature and rarity of the photographs.

"I look at the photos like they're songs. Every once in a while one of the songs becomes a hit," he said, pointing to a photograph of Kurt Cobain looking up, with his mouth open.

"And this one, this is a hit."

For Astoria resident and fashion designer Juvemal Lopez, the exhibit was an emotional experience.

"It's bittersweet," Lopez, 32, said. "Just seeing his images now, and thinking back on his death, it's so mindblowing. His life and music were just so influential on my generation."

Although his death was 18 years ago, Frohman felt that now was the perfect time to release his collection.

"It's the right time," Frohman said. "The nineties are popular again. And he really represents the nineties."