The Story Behind the Baby on Nirvana's 'Nevermind' Album Cover

Nirvana's Nevermind has one of the most iconic album covers of all time, featuring a naked baby swimming in a pool, following a dollar bill hooked on a fishing line.

That baby was Spencer Elden, who is now suing Nirvana LLC, claiming they broke laws around criminal child pornography and that his image has been "trafficked."

He claims his parents never signed a release allowing his image to be used and he has never been compensated for the photograph.

In the lawsuit, via Deadline, Elden claims Nirvana and the defendants in the lawsuit "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 was four months old when his picture was taken, with photographer Kirk Weddle behind the iconic image.

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."

He said the band originally wanted the image to be of a woman giving birth underwater, but the record company decided that was too graphic.

Weddle, the photographer, was a specialist in underwater photography, but had never shot a baby before this image.

In a separate interview with the same publication, he said he was paid $1,000 for the entire part, and initially they used a doll to train on before bringing Elden into the frame.

He said 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.

He said: "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...

"But the label loved the original shot of Spencer and went with that."

However, 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.

Elden explained the image was about "abandonment of innocence and everyone chasing money sooner and faster" but said it had been a "positive thing and opened doors for me."

Nevermind was released on September 24, 1991, and ended up topping the Billboard 200 and selling millions of copies worldwide.

Newsweek has approached lawyers for Nirvana and Universal Music Group for comment.

Nirvana In Bloom exhibition pixelated
The cover of the "Nevermind" album by Nirvana seen as the 'In Bloom: The Nirvana Exhibition' in London in 2011. The boy depicted in the cover is now suing the band. Samir Hussein/Getty Images

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