Spencer Elden is trending. But that's likely what he wants. What else does he want? Money. Everyone likes money; can't blame him for that. But what Spencer is not is an activist for child exploitation.
I call bullshit.
Who is Spencer Elden?
He is the cover image of one of the most iconic albums of all time.
Nirvana's 'Nevermind' was released on September 24, 1991, topping the Billboard 200 and selling millions of copies worldwide.
Elden explained the image was about "abandonment of innocence and everyone chasing money sooner and faster."
Elden was four months old when this picture was taken.
He is a student at the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California, and works as a street artist.
The Lawsuit Spencer Has Filed:
Suing: Nirvana LLC, the band’s surviving members, Kurt Cobain’s estate, and other entities and individuals. In 2016, Elden told TIME that he had unsuccessfully explored taking legal action against Geffen Records, which is named in the new lawsuit.
Seeking damages of $2.5 million. And he wants the album art altered for any future re-releases. “If there is a 30th anniversary re-release, he wants for the entire world not to see his genitals,” said lawyer Maggie Mabie.
When: When the band refused to perform at his art show, he said it was very weird for him to be known as the unusual baby on the album cover, and he wasn’t even making money from it. After that, he sued the band for producing, owning, and promoting illegal child pornography knowingly, even though he had no issue with it for 30 years. Elden has, in the past, publicly voiced his ambivalence. “It’s kind of creepy [to think] that many people have seen me naked,” a 17-year-old Elden told MTV News in 2008. “I feel like I’m the world’s biggest porn star.” Sounds more like a wish than a nightmare.
The lawsuit alleges that Nirvana and other defendants violated federal child pornography laws by using the image, failed to prevent his widespread sexual exploitation, that the image has been "trafficked", and that Elden sustained “injuries” and “lifelong damages” which he has not come to terms with, as a result of the album cover and the record’s global success and fame.
“Neither Spencer nor his legal guardians ever signed a release authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness,” the filing claims, “and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.”
Mabie referred to a claim in the lawsuit that “Cobain agreed to redact Spencer’s image” with a sticker bearing the text “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile”. The album was ultimately released without the sticker.
The Real Story:
Speaking to The Guardian about the image in 2015, Elden said his parents were friends with Weddle and didn't give his being in the photo "too much thought."
He said: "So his [Elden's father] friend the photographer Kirk Weddle called him and said: 'Do you want to make some money today and throw your kid in the pool?' And he agreed. "My parents took me down there, apparently they blew in my face to stimulate my gag reflex, dunked me in, took some pictures, and pulled me out. And that was it. They were paid $200 and went to eat tacos afterwards. No big deal."
Elden: It had been a "positive thing and opened doors for me."
Photographer: Kirk Weddle
Weddle was a specialist in underwater photography, but had never photographed a baby in water before this image.
He said he was paid $1,000, and initially they used a doll to train on before bringing Elden into the frame.
He shot about 15 frames overall, taking an hour to set up and five minutes to actually take the iconic image.
Weddle said he was concerned Elden's prominent penis in the image would mean it would not work for the record label, and went to a swim school and took an image of a 10-month-old girl as an alternative. "I knew I had the shot. That's the thing about old-school photography—as a pro, you have to know that you've got it before you leave. But when I looked at it more closely, I had some doubts. I thought, 'Man, it's such a dick shot!' His unit was so prominent in the picture... he's a well-hung kid for a four-month-old, you know? I didn't know if the label would go for it..."
The band originally wanted the image to be of a woman giving birth underwater, but the record company decided that was too graphic. "But the label loved the original shot of Spencer and went with that."
The dollar bill in front of Elden was taken by "a guy in New York," according to Weddle, meaning the two things were taken separately and placed together.
The Photo Shoots Over the Years:
He did many photoshoots in his youth and into adulthood, recreating the initial album cover repeatedly, further showing that he had no issue with it.
Elden has been profiled by several publications since the release of ‘Nevermind’, often for stories celebrating the album’s anniversary at various points over the years. He has even recreated the album cover, though clothed, in photoshoots – first in 2008, and then in 2016 for the album’s 25th anniversary.