Man who was naked baby on Nirvana's 'Nevermind' album sues band for sexual exploitation

Publish Date
Thursday, 26 August 2021, 7:10AM

The man who was the naked baby photographed on Nirvana's Nevermind album cover is suing the band for child porn.

Spencer Elden, now 30, filed a lawsuit against Kurt Cobain's estate and the band's surviving members for violating federal child pornography statutes and sexually exploiting him.

The cover of Nevermind — released in 1991 by the Geffen/UMG label — shows a naked 4-month-old baby swimming underwater, seemingly towards a fish hook with a dollar bill attached. It is among the best-known album covers in rock.

Elden said he has suffered "lifelong damage" from having his naked body plastered on the triple-diamond selling album, and claims neither he nor his parents consented to the naked photo shoot, according to the federal suit.

The lawsuit alleges the band, photographer and record label "intentionally marketed Spencer's child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense".

According to the suit, the defendants "knowingly produced, possessed and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so …

"Despite this knowledge, defendants failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking."

Elden also claims the band forced him to engage in "commercial sex acts" and that they went back on their promise to conceal his genitalia on the album cover.

"The permanent harm he has proximately suffered includes but is not limited to extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses to be described and proven at trial of this matter," the document read.

In 2016, Elden paid homage to the album that featured hit songs Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium by recreating the photoshoot in swimmers.

At the time, he explained: "I said to the photographer, 'Let's do it naked.' But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts," Elden said of the shoot at the time.

"The anniversary means something to me. It's strange that I did this for five minutes when I was four months old and it became this really iconic image."

The infant's family was paid $US200 for the 15-second plunge in the pool, which only happened because Elden's dad was a friend of the photographer, according to a 2008 NPR report.

Despite seeming excited about the re-enactment, he now says said the original photo deeply impacted him.

"I'm pissed off about it, to be honest … I've been going through it my whole life. But 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 told Australia GQ.

Elden is seeking damages and an injunction to seek the band from profiting from the hit album.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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