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Sumerian Comics Acquires Rights to Rock Photographer Naomi Petersen’s Archive

Founded by Ash Avildsen, Sumerian also purchased the late photographer's life rights for future film and/or literary projects.

Record and film producer Ash Avildsen, through his company Sumerian Comics, has acquired the publishing rights to the photo archive of iconic rock photographer Naomi Petersen as well as rights to her life story for future film and literary projects.

Petersen’s images of the Los Angeles rock scene and pictures of punk, thrash and hard rock acts including Black Flag‘s Henry Rollins, Minor Threat‘s Ian Mackaye, Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain, Guns N’ RosesAxl Rose and band shots of Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Descendents and The Minutemen served as the visual palette for an entire generation of rock fans around the world.


A Japanese-American from Los Angeles, Petersen was only 18 years old when she began working as a resident photographer for independent label SST Records. From 1982 to 1994, she would capture one-of-a-kind images of bands including  Sonic Youth, Fugazi and Pantera. After moving from LA to Washington, D.C. in 1989, Naomi began documenting powerhouse artists performing at Washington D.C.’s legendary 9:30 Club. In 1994, Petersen quit photography and disappeared from public life, briefly returning three years later to shoot her last known images. In 2003, she passed away due to liver failure at the age of 38.

Nirvana, Naomi Petersen
Nirvana Naomi Petersen

Avildsen, whose music label Sumerian Records features Circa Survive, Black Veil Brides, Smashing Pumpkins, Poppy and Jonathan Davis on its roster, has been a long time fan and admirer of Petersen’s work, describing her archive as “timeless and iconic” and “a true gift to all music and photography lovers around the world. Her personal story as an artistic underdog is an inspiring, powerful one that I am honored to help share,” he says.

Ryan Anthony Menge, Sumerian’s vp of creative, adds, “I’ve always been transfixed by Naomi’s body of work and her dynamic style of shooting, but after learning more of her personal story and her quiet battles with mental health I believe Naomi Petersen will resonate more with current generations than she ever has before.”

Last year, Petersen’s photos were featured in Dave Grohl’s documentary What Drive Us, which documented the early touring careers of U2, Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters. Her work was also included in a high-profile collaboration with street artist Shepard Fairey.

Pantera, Naomi Petersen
Pantera Naomi Petersen

Acquisition & archive development was made possible courtesy of Punk Life Naomi, the estate of Naomi Petersen, as well as her brother Chris Petersen and writer and producer Sean E. DeMott of Execution Style Entertainment

“When I walked into Chris Petersen’s (brother of Naomi) home in Northern California and peered into a time capsule of archives I saw a chilling glimpse of Naomi’s incredible journey and developed an instant commitment to get her story told,” says DeMott. “Ash, Ryan and the Sumerian Comics team are the ultimate partners to come in and show Naomi Petersen’s beautiful life to the world.”

Future plans for Naomi’s story and archive will be announced soon.