The Man Photographed as a Baby on Nirvana’s Iconic ‘Nevermind’ Album Cover is Suing the Band, Alleging ‘Child Pornography’

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Rock Cellar Magazine

It’s one of the most iconic album covers ever made — but now Spencer Elden, the man photographed as an infant for what would become the artwork for Nevermind, the groundbreaking and genre-defining 1991 album from Nirvana, has filed a lawsuit against the band alleging “child pornography.”

The image, of course, depicts Elden in a pose that looks like he’s swimming toward money on a fishing line, perceived as a slight against capitalism by the Kurt Cobain-fronted grunge trio, definitely a theme consistent with the band’s usual perspective on things. The album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and is generally considered the most important rock album of the 1990s. Variety notes, too, that “Non-sexualized nude photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under law,” but that hasn’t kept Elden’s attorney from proceeding with the suit anyway.

Variety‘s report also notes that the attorney, Robert Y. Lewis, claims that the money depicted in the image makes baby Elden appear “like a sex worker,” a claim that is the bridge to the otherwise unusual child pornography claim.

nirvana nevermind

More, via Variety:

“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,” reads the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court’s central district of California and obtained by 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.”

Elden is reportedly seeking $150,000 from each of the defendants named in the suit, which includes surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, as well as Courtney Love, Cobain’s widow and executor of his estate, the photographer and the various record companies (some of which don’t exist anymore) involved in Nevermind‘s release.

Of the many reports out there regarding Elden’s lawsuit over the Nevermind cover, most note that over the years, he has recreated the album cover to commemorate its anniversary — here’s a story from the New York Post to that effect — though he has often expressed frustration over the whole thing, especially since he was so young he couldn’t consent to such an image (and, apparently, his family wasn’t exactly aware that the images from the photo shoot would end up on one of the most successful albums ever made).

Via Variety:

In a Time magazine article on the album’s 25th anniversary five years ago, Elden, then 25, said, “I got a little upset for a bit” as he grew older. “I was trying to reach out to these people. I never met anybody. I didn’t get a call or email. I just woke up already being a part of this huge project. It’s pretty difficult — you feel like you’re famous for nothing, but you didn’t really do anything but their album.”


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