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Star of Nirvana Cover Sues Band Over Alleged Child Sexual Exploitation

At just four months old, Spencer Elden is the star of possibly the most iconic baby photograph of all time, as he floats on the cover of Nirvana's album Nevermind, but now in his 30s, Elden is suing the band over child sexual exploitation.

Elden, now 30 years old, is filing suit in the Court Central District of California for damages against multiple parties, including living members of the band Nirvana and front man Kurt Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, as well as the record labels that subsequently released the album over the past 30 years and photographer Kirk Weddle over "commercial sexual exploitation" in regards to "child pornography."

Seeking $150,000 for the "lifelong damages" he has suffered over his lifetime and will continue to suffer from, the suit claims that the 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.

At just four months old, Spencer Elden was photographed naked in a swimming pool, which was then edited for the front of Nirvana's album "Nevermind" to make it look like he was swimming towards money. The album was released on September 24, 1991 and was designed by Robert Fisher. Fisher, who has spoken about the album design before, discussing that Cobain found inspiration from a documentary of babies being born, said:

[He] thought the image would make a cool cover. That vision was a bit too graphic, so we went with the swimming baby instead."

Elden has recreated the cover a few times for various anniversaries of the album, most recently for the album's 25th anniversary, but it seems his involvement with the original photo was in conflict even then. Back in 2019, Kirk Weddle, the photographer of the album, spoke with the Guardian about Elden's viewpoint of the album cover.

I’m still in contact with Spencer. I used to think, ‘Man, when that kid is 16, he’s gonna hate my guts!’ He doesn’t, but he’s conflicted about the picture. He feels that everybody made money off it and he didn’t. I think he deserves something. But it’s always the record labels that make the money.

Quite how the suit will pan out is yet to be made clear, and how Weddle is taking this latest lawsuit is still unknown, but 30 years down the line, it'll be interesting to see how Spencer Elden's suit will be treated and whether he'll be able to recover the $150,000 in damages.

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6 Comments
Deleted Account's picture

Wow, that was fast. Only a week after about every dull magazine reported about that ridiculous story Jason popped up on the stage. Congrats!

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Only 4 days since the story reported by petapixel, so it is OK.

Johnny Kiev's picture

It isn't clear from your post but he is actually seeking $150,000 from each of the 17 named parties, so £2,550,000, blatant money grab.
It's interesting that he hasn't named his own father who gave the permission for the shoot yet is going after Chad Channing who left the group well before Nevermind, although the version of Polly on the Album, though not originally credited, did turn out to have been recorded with Channing, though not for this album.

I sincerely hope this fails in its entirety.

Mutley Dastardly's picture

I do not believe it's a sexual thing, or that damage can be proven. Now he damaged himself.
It's pure about the $$$.

Timothy Linn's picture

So the dude has been voluntarily involved in multiple re-creations of the album cover, personally advocating that they be done without clothes (they were not), and now this? His next re-creation should show him in the pool trying to grab a $150,000 check off the hook.

Ken Hunt's picture

Swimming after the money.