The 30-year-old man who was featured on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind album as a baby is taking legal action over the picture.
Spencer Elden was four months old when a photo of him swimming nude underwater was taken for Nirvana’s album artwork.
Three decades on from the release of Nevermind, Elden is taking legal action against 15 different parties, including lead singer Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, former Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic and photographer Kirk Weddle.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of “commercial child sexual exploitation”, branding the image “commercial child pornography”.
BBC News has pointed out that non-sexualised images of infants are not typically considered child pornography under US law, but Elden’s lawyer is arguing that the inclusion of a dollar bill – which was added to the photo digitally after it was taken – makes the subject appear “like a sex worker”.
According to legal documents: “The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day.”
Elden has stated he has suffered “lifelong damages” as a result of the Nevermind cover, including “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations”.
The 30-year-old is seeking $150,000 (£109,500) from each of the 15 defendants named in the case, which includes several record labels who have distributed Nevermind in the time since its release.
HuffPost UK has contacted representatives for Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Courtney Love for comment.
Elden has recreated the Nevermind cover on several occasions in recognition of the album’s 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries – always wearing a swimsuit – but has expressed mixed opinions about his involvement in it in past years.
In 2015, he wrote in The Guardian he was “glad” his photo had been chosen for the cover, stating: “It is a weird thing to get my head around, being part of such a culturally iconic image. But it’s always been a positive thing and opened doors for me.”
A year later, he told Time magazine: “It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved… I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
In 2016, he recreated the cover for the New York Post, telling the newspaper: in an accompanying interview: “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.”