The man featured on the cover of Nirvana's iconic 1991 rock album "Nevermind" as a baby has accused the band of sexual exploitation and violating federal child pornography statutes.
Spencer Elden filed a lawsuit in New York on Tuesday against the band, surviving members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, the estate of Kurt Cobain, photographer Erik Weddle and several music catalogs, including Warner Records, MCA Music and Universal Music Group.
In the suit, Elden seeks $150,000 from each defendant for what he calls "lifelong damages."
The album cover features Elden, now 30, as an infant, swimming nude in a pool with his genitals exposed. The photograph was shot by Weddle in 1991, who was friends with Elden's father.
According to Variety, Elden's father got a call from Weddle and asked if he could take his son's photo during a shoot in exchange for $200. Months later, Elden's image graced the cover of "Nevermind," which would later certify platinum and sell more than 10 million copies.
The lawsuit notes that Elden nor his legal guardians ever signed a release granting the use of his image or likeness before the photo was used as the album cover.
While Variety notes that "non-sexualized nude photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under law," the lawsuit argues that the photo was purposefully selected to sexualize Elden.
It argues that the photo depicted the child "like a sex worker," "grabbing for a dollar bill that is positioned dangling from a fishhook in front of his nude body with his penis explicitly displayed."
Pitchfork notes that Elden has recreated the image multiple times throughout the years, including as recently as 2016. He also has the word "Nevermind" tattooed on his chest.
But as he's grown older, Elden has shared conflicting feelings about the cover in various interviews.
""It's f***** up," Elden told GQ Australia in 2016. "I'm pissed off about it, to be honest."