A 4-month-old baby issuing a rock band 30 years after the band used his nude photo to promote their music album. Spencer Elden, who was four months old when he was used for an underwater photoshoot and chasing after a dollar bill with his body entirely nude, said Nirvana exploited him for child pornography by using his naked photo on their 1991 Nevermind album.
Now age 30, Elden filed a lawsuit against Nirvana and their record label for his photo on their album cover, saying he is the subject of child sexual abuse. He claimed that since the group’s album sold more than 30 million copies, his penis has been seen by millions of people and that this makes him feel insecure as an adult. He said Nirvana engaged in “commercial child sexual exploitation of him from while he was minor to this present day…and advertised commercial child pornography depicting” him.
According to Elden, he has suffered “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations”, plus loss of education, wages, and “enjoyment of life” as a direct result of the 1991 album cover. He added that the fact that he was reaching for a dollar bill in his nudity depicts him as a sex worker. Elden’s lawyers said his consent was not obtained for the photoshoot and his parents did not sign a release form for the “sexually graphic” image.
“It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember,” he said some years ago. “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…kind of creepy that many people have seen me naked. I feel like the world’s biggest porn star.”
Elden is demanding a minimum of $15,000 from each of the 15 defendants listed in the lawsuit, and legal costs associated with the case. He also wants the lawsuit to be tried by a jury.
The photographer who shot the image, Kirk Weddle, and cover designer Robert Fisher said they had reservations about the image when it was first produced decades ago.
“I’m still in contact with Spencer,” Weddle said. “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.”