Long Lost Kurt Cobain Death Scene Photos Pass as Art

Cobain crime scene. Courtesy the Seattle Police Department.
Cobain crime scene. Courtesy the Seattle Police Department.

Today in “is it art?” fodder: the recently discovered police photos from the scene of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. On the 20th anniversary of the rock icon’s death, Seattle Police Department Cold Case Detective Mike Ciesynski reviewed the case file in anticipation of media inquiries, and discovered four rolls of crime scene photos that were never developed by investigators due to the rampant conspiracy theories and the high-profile nature of the case. While there is no new speculation on the cause of death—“It’s a suicide. This is a closed case,” says Ciesynski—the haunting photos have now been released, and we are faced with the question of what to do with and make of them.

Cobain crime scene photo via Salon.

Cobain suicide scene photo.
Via Seattle Police Department.

Salon reporter Patrick Wensink thinks we might choose to view them as art. “The big surprise,” he writes, “is how beautiful they are. The images could hang in a gallery aside realist photography giants like William Eggleston and Stephen Shore.” He is correct that, in addition to providing a window of insight into the mind of a tortured and immensely talented soul, the photos stand alone as beautifully faded homages to the melancholy of both life and death. One image, of a doctored wooden stool bearing six legs and inscribed with the words “Now You Have Many Legs to Stand On” is the perfect combination of strange, lyrical, and heartbreaking, like so much of Cobain’s music and writing. Others, like a messy cigar box filled with needles and a spoon, are more sinister and appeal to more of a Nan Goldin sensibility.

Will the crime scene photos ever receive a gallery show, or perhaps be sold at auction? Only time will tell, but until then, they remain a voyeuristic (and yes, artistic) glimpse into one of the most talked-about cases in recent history and the life of the man at its center.

Cobain crime scene photo via Salon.

Cobain suicide scene.
Photo via Seattle Police Department.

Cobain crime scene photo via Salon.

Cobain suicide scene photo.
Via Seattle Police Department.

Cobain crime scene photo via Seattle Police Department.

Cobain suicide scene photo.
Via Seattle Police Department.


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