HomeMusicPhotographer breathes life into Kurt Cobain's abandoned former home with powerful photo...

Photographer breathes life into Kurt Cobain’s abandoned former home with powerful photo series

Photographer Steve Birnbaum, aka thebandwashere on Instagram, has been taking music fans back in time with his technique of superimposing iconic band photos over the sites where they were taken.

“This project is to show the passage of time. How one day we’re here, and the next day we’re not. It’s to radiate the memories these images hold and the power that one split second of time can imprint on us.”

His most recent series of photos might be his most powerful. Birnbaum travelled to Kurt Cobain’s former home in Hollywood Heights. He brought along some of the most intimate photographs of the Nirvana frontman and his family.

Cobain lived in the rented house with Courtney Love in 1992. They lived there when their daughter Frances Bean Cobain was born. Kurt also wrote most of Nirvana’s third and final studio album In Utero in a closet on the top floor of the house.

The house fell into disrepair after being abandoned for years. In 2021 an application was made to designate the site as a Historical-Cultural Monument.

“I went back and forth for a while as to whether I wanted to post these pictures or not,” says Birnbaum. “Some of the images I’ll be posting in the next few days straddle the line between photo shoots and personal photos from a family album, perhaps initially never to have seen the light of day.”

“Images of someone who is no longer with us. Images of someone who looked genuinely happy. Far removed from what would later happen less than two years after these were taken.”

SPIN Magazine Feature

Constance Hansen and Russell Peacock (aka Guzman) originally captured some of the photos featured by Birnbaum for a feature in SPIN Magazine. The pair displayed the photos at a gallery show in 2021.

“This shoot happened not long after a highly critical article in Vanity Fair questioning their alleged drug use and their ability to raise a young child,” they explained at the show. “Yet, in spite of all the intense scrutiny that was swirling around them, we found them at a very happy and loving place.”

Birnbaum’s photos intensely demonstrate the fleeting nature of life. They convey a seemingly peaceful period in the otherwise turbulent lives of Kurt and his family. Later that year, Kurt and Courtney moved back to Seattle. Kurt would ultimately die by suicide less than two years later.

“I was alone, in this run down house with these photos. And all the memories permeating out of the cracks in the walls. Through the splintered floors, dancing along the sun soaked windows streaked with dust. It was palpable.”

“To stand in those exact spots, 28 years later, is something I can’t truly explain,” says Birnbaum. “I can only hope these images give you some sense of that feeling though.”

Check out Steve Birnbaum’s Instagram for the rest of the series, and loads more incredible photos exploring iconic images throughout music history.

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