On September 9th, 1992, photographer Kevin Mazur went to the MTV Video Music Awards on assignment for Rolling Stone. "When I got there, they told me, 'Listen, we're having some difficulty with Nirvana,'" Mazur recalls. "'Whatever you do, do not photograph them. Do not piss them off. Stay clear of them.'"
The network was freaking out over Kurt Cobain's plan to play the provocative new song "Rape Me" on live TV that night. (A report alleging that Courtney Love used heroin while pregnant with their infant daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, had caused further tension that fall.) But Mazur found grunge's first couple in a surprisingly friendly mood when he ran into them backstage later.
"Courtney pops her head out from the trailer, holding Frances, and she goes, 'Who are you?'" Mazur says. "Without missing a beat, she goes, 'He seems cool, Kurt.' She goes, 'You want to take a picture of the three of us?' That’s where my relationship started with Kurt."
Rock Paper Photo is marking the 20th anniversary of Cobain's death with a new collection of Nirvana photos – including several by Mazur, like the one at left, which shows Cobain schmoozing with Peter Gabriel backstage that first day at the 1992 VMAs. Click through for more of the stories behind Mazur's Nirvana photos.
Photos by Kevin Mazur
Interview by Simon Vozick-Levinson