Spencer Elden Nevermind baby suing Nirvana over ‘Come as you are’ album cover alleging sexual exploitation. Does now 30 year old man have a case?
Smells Like Greed Spirit? Spencer Elden, who was photographed as a baby on the album cover for Nirvana‘s eponymous Nevermind album release, is suing the band alleging sexual exploitation.
In his suit, the now 30 year old man is accusing the band of taking illicit photos without consent after he appeared on the ‘Come as you are’ album cover in 1991.
Eldon, filed a lawsuit against Kurt Cobain’s estate and the band’s surviving members, saying the grunge pioneers violated federal child sex statutes and sexually exploited him.
Eldon also said he has suffered ‘lifelong damage’ from having his naked body plastered on the triple-diamond selling album, claiming neither he nor his guardians consented to the photoshoot, according to the federal suit.
The band, photographer, and record labels ‘intentionally marketed Spencer’s child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense,’ the suit alleges.
Non-sexualised photos of infants are generally not considered child exploitation
The plaintiff, who was four months old at the time of the 1991 underwater photoshoot, also claims he was forced to engage in ‘commercial sex acts,’ and that the band went back on an alleged promise to conceal his genitals on the album cover.
‘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 document read as cited by Variety.
Non-sexualised photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under US law the BBC reports.
Elden’s lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, argues that the inclusion of the dollar bill (which was superimposed after the photograph was taken) makes the minor seem ‘like a sex worker’.
The legal case also alleges that Nirvana had promised to cover Elden’s genitals with a sticker, but the agreement was not upheld according to the suit.
Elden has repeatedly recreated the pose as a teenager and adult, diving into pools to pose (with swim trunks on) on the occasion of the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th anniversaries.
In 2016, a then, 25-year-old Eldon recreated the cover fully clothed paying homage to the hit record, which released indie rock hits like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Lithium.’ and went on to sell 30 million copies around the world.
‘I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts,’ Elden said of the shoot at the time.
‘The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was 4 months old and it became this really iconic image.’
The infant’s family was only paid $200 for the 15-second plunge in the pool, which only happened because Elden’s dad was a friend of the photographer, according to a 2008 NPR report.
‘I didn’t really have a choice’
Even though he seemed excited about the reenactment in 2016, days earlier the LA-based artist told Australia GQ he wished the band had stayed away.
‘I’m pissed off about it, to be honest … I’ve been going through it my whole life. But 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.’
In other interviews, Eldon has been more upbeat about the image.
‘It’s always been a positive thing and opened doors for me,’ he told the Guardian six years ago. ‘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 is a huge music connoisseur: when he heard I was the Nirvana baby, he thought that was really cool.’
Until now, Eldon hadn’t described the album cover as pornographic.
What was a constant, in the past as now, is that Elden has said he was never compensated for the photo beyond the $200 his parents were paid for it on the day of the shoot. In previous interviews, he’s said he tried to get in touch with Grohl and Novoselic, on a friendly basis, but never got a reply according to nbcnews. A possibly new contention in the lawsuit is that Elden’s parents never physically signing paperwork allowing any use of the image.
Eldon’s suit seeks damages and an injunction to seek the band from profiting from the hit album.
Eldon is asking for damages of at least $150,000 from each of the 15 defendants, who include surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; the manager’s of Kurt Cobain’s estate; Cobain’s former wife Courtney Love; and photographer Kirk Weddle.
Representatives for Nirvana and their record labels have yet to respond to the claims.
And then there were these sample reactions on social media which caught this author’s attention. See what you think?
‘The symmetry in him chasing money underwater as a baby and him chasing money as an adult through the courts. Stunning!’
‘Someone needs money by the sounds of it, didn’t seem to mind when he has recreated the pic i mean if its caused him so much trauma he wouldn’t of done that right.’