As we approach the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s iconic 1991 album ‘Nevermind’, the baby who appeared on the cover, who is now a 30-year-old man, has sued the band for sexual exploitation whilst calling the album cover “child pornography”. Gemma explores the case.
Spencer Elden was only four-months-old when the photograph of him submerged in a swimming pool was taken. He claims that his parents never authorised Nirvana to use his image on the album cover.
They forgot about the image until they saw it on a billboard in Los Angeles three months later
In 2008, his father claimed that he was paid $200 by his photographer friend Kirk Weddle for the image to be taken, whilst they were at a pool party. They forgot about the image until they saw it on a billboard in Los Angeles three months later.
The naked baby of Nirvana's 1991 album, "Nevermind," is now 30 and suing former band members and Kurt Cobain's estate. https://t.co/C2sfZAeXkV— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 25, 2021
“The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” legal papers filed in California claim.
Elden also claims that Nirvana promised to cover his genitals which appear on the album cover with a sticker, but they did not keep to this agreement
Even though the photo is non-sexualised, meaning that it wouldn’t usually be considered pornography by the US law, Elden’s lawyer Robert Y. Lewis states that the dollar bill that hangs from a fishing line makes the baby seem “like a sex worker”.
Elden also claims that Nirvana promised to cover his genitals which appear on the album cover with a sticker, but they did not keep to this agreement. He is requesting at least $150,000 (£109,000) from 15 defendants, including former Nirvana band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, the manager of Kurt Cobain’s estate, Cobain’s former wife Courtney Love, and Kirk Weddle.
Weddle himself has stated that “[Elden] feels that everybody made money off it and he didn’t,” adding “I think he deserves something. But it’s always the record labels that make the money.” Himself and Elden are thought to still be in contact to this day.
Spencer Elden, who appeared as a naked baby on the cover of Nirvana's 1991 album "Nevermind," has claimed the record's iconic artwork is child pornography and is suing the band over alleged "child sexual exploitation." https://t.co/0D08g1vuXP— CNN (@CNN) August 25, 2021
Meanwhile, Elden claims that his “true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor which has been distributed and sold worldwide from the time he was a baby to the present day”.
He goes on to explain that he has “suffered and will continue to suffer lifelong damages” including “extreme and permanent emotional distress”, “interference with his normal development and educational progress” and “medical and psychological treatment” due to the album cover.
Nirvana have not yet responded to these claims.
Featured image courtesy of Guille.17 via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of @nytimes and @CNN via twitter.com. No changes were made to these images.
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