Spencer Elden claims he has suffered “lifelong damage” by having his naked body on the famous cover.
Famous rock band Nirvana released Nevermind in 1991. The album came with a unique cover of a naked baby swimming for a dollar bill.
This album is legendary within pop culture, selling over 30 million copies, with Billboard calling the artwork one of the best covers of all time. But up until the album became wildly popular, Nirvana was just another up-and-coming Seattle-based garage band.
Spencer Elden, the baby on the cover has recently filed a lawsuit against the estate of Nirvana and associates. This included former bandmates, David Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, among other parties.
He claimed that they, along with Geffen Records, which released Nevermind, profited from his naked image. It is one of the best-selling records of all time, with at least 30 million copies sold worldwide.
The band wanted a submerged swimming baby on the cover. And of the swimming baby photos, none were quite what they were looking for, so they hired underwater photographer, Kirt Weddle, to head to the local pool and shoot the photo.
Initially, Weddle tried to photograph babies at a swimming class, but none quite worked out. This is when 4-month old Spencer’s father, Rick Elden, was contacted by the photographer. Weddle invited Rick to a pool party and offered US200$ if they can take a few shots of Spencer in the pool.
Spencer’s family didn’t sign a contract or model release and were paid only US$200. The photo shoot was quick, with Weddle capturing only five images of Elden before packing up. The fishing line and hook with a dollar bill attached to it are added in post. The band wanted to make it look like the baby was swimming towards it.
In an interview with Time Magazine, Weddle said,
“It was a great concept—a baby underwater, unable to breathe, going after money on a fishhook, After Nevermind was a big hit, they came back to me to shoot the band underwater.”
Now 30-year-old Spencer is attempting to sue Nirvana for taking his picture without any legal consent. He claims to have suffered “lifelong damage” from the image and its popularity. Elden also claims emotional distress and a “lifelong loss of income-earning capacity.” The lawsuit does not provide details about the losses and would be disclosed at trial.
Mr Elden lives as an artist in Los Angeles County. His lawyer Maggie Mabie says he has gone to therapy for years to work through how the album cover affected him. Although these are valid claims, many have criticised Eldon due to his emotional shifts in regard to the Album.
Throughout the years Elden appeared in interviews talking about the image and even tattooed “Nevermind” on his body. On the 25th anniversary of the album, Elden recreated the image in the same pool.
Other victims of child pornography have taken offence at the “frivolous” nature of the lawsuit. We are yet to have Information on Nirvana’s stance. Elden seeks US$150,000 in compensation and hopes to recover from the discomfort the image has given him.
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