You know Spencer Elden as the baby swimming on the cover of Nirvana's classic 1991 Nevermind album. Elden has now filed a lawsuit over the cover, alleging that the image is child pornography.
"Defendants intentionally commercially marketed Spencer’s child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense," said the lawsuit according to Variety.
"Defendants used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews."
It further states “Weddle took a series of sexually graphic nude photographs of Spencer. To ensure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer, Weddle activated Spencer’s ‘gag reflex’ before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals. Fisher purchased fishhooks from a bait and tackle shop to add to the scene. At least one or more film cartridges were exposed in a short period of time which included at least 40 or 50 different image shots of Spencer. Cobain chose the image depicting Spencer — like a sex worker — grabbing for a dollar bill that is positioned dangling from a fishhook in front of his nude body with his penis explicitly displayed.”
Elden, now 30, claims he was only paid $200 for the shoot at the time, and that his parents never signed any contracts regarding the photo or the shoot. Elden also claims he has tried to get in touch with Nirvana's rhythm section Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic over the years.
"Neither Spencer nor his legal guardians ever signed a release authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him," said the lawsuit.
Elden is seeking $150,000 each from Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; Courtney Love, who serves as the executor of Kurt Cobain’s estate; both of the estate's managers Guy Oseary and Heather Parry; photographer Kirk Weddle, who took the initial photo; art director of Nevermind Robert Fisher; and "a number of existing or defunct record companies that released or distributed the album in the last three decades." Variety also points out the lawsuit seeks damages from original drummer Chad Channing, who was not at all a part of Nevermind.
When Elden was 25, he revealed he got a "Nevermind" tattoo on his chest. He has participated in numerous shoots throughout the years commemorating the album's anniversary. In a 2016 story, he revealed “It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved… [When] I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
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