The man who was depicted naked underwater as an infant in Nirvana’s iconic 1991 album “Nevermind” has sued the band, alleging that he was a victim of child pornography.
The lawsuit is likely to be a longshot, considering that non-sexualized photographs of infants aren’t considered child pornography by law.
However, Elden – whose penis was exposed in the image – argues that the image is tantamount to sexual abuse and exploitation. His lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, claims that the fact that he appears to be chasing the dollar makes him appear to be “like a sex worker.”
Elden now launched legal action against the band’s surviving members and the estate of late frontman Kurt Cobain, whose executor is Courtney Love.
The lawsuit states: “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 lawsuit, whose documents were seen by TMZ and Pitchfork, further argues that Elden has suffered “lifelong damages” and that members of Nirvana “knowingly benefitted from their participation” in his “commercial sexual exploitation.”
Continuing, the suit argues that neither he nor his parents authorized “the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.”
The child ended up on the album cover after photographer Kirk Weddle convinced his father to allow it. The photos were taken at an Olympic size pool at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California in 1992.
The family was paid $250 for the image, Entertainment Weekly reported at the time.
Elden had seemingly lived much of his life proud of his association with the album and has since recreated the image as an adult and even gotten the logo for “Nevermind” tattooed on his chest.
Since then, however, he has vocally complained of his relationship to the album.
Speaking to GQ Australia in 2016, he 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 claims that women have dumped him after finding out that he wasn’t earning royalties from the hit album, whose tracks have spent an enormous amount of time at the top of sales charts.
However, in a 2015 interview he also claimed to have greatly benefited from the image.
“It is a weird thing to get my head around, being part of such a culturally iconic image,” he said in an interview with the Guardian.
“But it’s always been a positive thing and opened doors for me. I’m 23 now and an artist, and this story gave me an opportunity to work with Shepard Fairey for five years, which was an awesome experience,” he added, referring to the Obey designer. “He is a huge music connoisseur: when he heard I was the Nirvana baby, he thought that was really cool.”
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