Baby featured on Nirvana's Nevermind album cover sues for 'child sexual exploitation'

Spencer Elden was four months old when he was photographed for the cover of Nevermind. Credit: Kirk Weddle

Nirvana is being sued by the man who was photographed as a baby on the cover for the band's Nevermind album over claims of child sexual exploitation.

Spencer Elden is suing for damages of at least £110,000 ($150,000) from each of the 15 named defendants in the case - which include band members, Kurt Cobain's widow Courtney Love and record labels that released the album in the last 30 years.

Mr Elden, who is now 30-years-old, alleges in the Californian court cases that the defendants produced child pornography with the image.


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The cover, from 1991, shows Mr Elden as a four month old baby swimming in a pool naked and reaching for a dollar note which was dangled on a fishing line.

Non-sexualised photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under US law.

Mr Elden was involved with the shoot because the photographer, Kirk Weddle, was a friend of the family. The lawsuit claims the image is "sexually graphic", and said it makes Mr Elden resemble "a sex worker – grabbing for a dollar bill".

Spencer looking back at himself as a baby Credit: John Chapple

The legal papers also claim: "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."

The lawsuit claims Mr Elden was never paid for appearing on the cover, and his parents never signed a release form for the image, which was shot specifically for the album cover.

In 2016, Mr Elden recreated the image with a photographer from North Devon to mark the album’s 25th anniversary.

At the time, Mr Elden said "it's been strange growing up as the star of one of the most famous album artworks of the century".

In 2016, Spencer Elden recreated the image with a photographer from North Devon. Credit: John Chapple

That year he also reportedly said: "Recently I’ve been thinking, ‘What if I wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?’ I didn’t really have a choice."

He also recreated the image for Rolling Stone, aged 10.

While he can't remember doing anything at the time, he admitted it has become an important part of his life.

Representatives of the Nirvana estate and other defendants have not yet responded to the lawsuit, or commented on it publicly.