KEXP Q&A: Charles Peterson

most photos by Charles Peterson, except where credited

On August 23rd, Seattle musicians Mike McCready, Duff McKagan, Barrett Martin, and Mark Arm ascended the roof of Pike Place Market for Raw Power KEXP, a historical evening of Iggy & the Stooges covers. But they weren’t the only local legends on stage. Off to the side, quietly stood world-renowned photographer Charles Peterson.

As the premiere rock photographer of the grunge era, Peterson’s photos are as iconic as the music he captured. After graduating with a BFA in photography from the University of Washington in 1987, he became the de facto in-house photographer for Sub Pop Records, and his work has subsequently appeared on more than 100 album covers and sleeves. We were honored to have him there for Raw Power KEXP, and had the chance to chat with him about the experience:

What was it like shooting from up there on Pike Place Market? Were you scared at all?

Well, I’ve shot from the fourth largest suspension bridge in the world (The Humber in the UK) during gale force winds so not a big deal really. It was one of the best looking stages I’ve ever shot though.

You must not have a fear of heights, because you also rented a helicopter to shoot photos of Mudhoney when they played on top of the Space Needle in 2013!

I actually have a great fear of heights but when one is working it just goes away. My fear is usually more standing or walking at heights; small planes not at all. In fact if the Blue Angels asked me to shoot with them I’d do it in a heartbeat!


Charles Peterson’s photo of me taking a photo of him.


My Instagram shot of Peterson’s helicopter.

You’ve now shot Mark Arm in a variety of weird places: roof of Pike Place Market, top of the Space Needle, Northgate Mall parking lot… where in Seattle should we try to get him to perform next?

Hmmm, maybe on a ferry?


Photographer David Coalter caught a photo of Peterson (lower left) taking a photo of McCready, taking a photo of the crowd.

You’re most known for your music photography, but you’ve also done some amazing travel photography in places like Southeast Asia… What have been some of the most amazing locations you’ve shot in (besides Pike Place Market!). Have you ever been scared or injured taking photos, whether it was hanging out of a helicopter, or even getting crushed in a mosh pit?

That suspension bridge, and on the same job riding with a London motorcycle messenger at high speeds through Soho were two of the most exciting. Toul Sleng prison in Cambodia one of the most disturbing, and the stars at Sundance one of the most trying. Never injured myself per se, though humping gear has been good for my chiropractor.

KEXPNow presents a simulcast on-air and online airing of the Raw Power KEXP concert on Thursday, September 24th at 9:00 AM PT. Hear the audio at 90.3 FM in Seattle, or watch the streaming video at KEXP.ORG/VIDEO.

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