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Kurt Cobain with Nirvana
Kurt Cobain with Nirvana1992 © Steve Double

The Day The Music Died

Photographer Steve Double celebrates musicians who tragically passed away in a untimely and tragic way

‘The Day The Music Died’ celebrates the life of musicians whose passing was untimely and tragic through an exhibition of their portraits. Having shot some of the world’s greatest talent, Steve Double is one of the photographers involved in the show and displays his portraits of Nina Simone, Michael Jackson, Nirvana and Joe Strummer. Double photographs his subjects in an honest and open way, capturing extremely personal moments of connection, and consequently, bringing out the little quirks and parts of their personality previously unseen.

Dazed Digital: How was it shooting and spending five days in a van with Nirvana?
Steve Double: I shot Nirvana twice. The first time I spent five days with them was just before ‘Bleach’ came out. The drummer was driving the van. It was a Transit van and it was very rough and ready. They were young and they were hungry. I always got on well with Krist Novoselic, the base player. Kurt was always quite quiet.

One thing I remember is that they played a gig that they hated - smashed all of their gear up at the end of it and Chris shaved his head, as a penance. The next day at the next gig Kurt wore a dress. The shot that’s in the exhibition is from the second shoot, which was just after ‘In Utero’ came out. They were completely different… Kurt was on smack and Courtney was there. It was a nightmare.

DD: What do you think that the most important aspect is in getting a great photo?
Steve Double: You definitely have to have an understanding of composition and images. You have to be able to get on with people and to create a lot of luck for yourself.

DD: How did you get into photography and what was your first job as a photographer?
Steve Double: I started photography when I was at school. I was in the Photo Club. I can’t draw, so it was a good way of making images. My first paid job was photographing The Pogues on Saint Patrick’s Day 1985.

DD: How did that go?
Steve Double: It went really well, actually. It was hot and sweaty. There is a great picture of Shane MacGowan after he had come off stage drenched in sweat. The manager saw it and said “That’s a great picture. If you’ll take another one like that, I’ll fucking kill you! Shane looks like something out of Deliverance!” So, that was a good start.

DD: What has been your most memorable shoot?
Steve Double: One of them is photographing Bill Gates, because I only had ninety seconds with him and he wouldn’t talk to me.

DD: What inspires you?
Steve Double: Fire!

DD: Does an artist need to suffer to create?
Steve Double: No, but it helps.

DD: What work of art would you most like to own?
Steve Double: Alexander Calder's mobile.

DD: What one album would you choose as the soundtrack to your life?
Steve Double: The Dark Side of the Moon.

‘The Day The Music Died’ takes place at Proud Camden, Chalk Farm Road, between 14th December 2011 and 4th March 2012.