How the 'Nevermind' Boy Was Almost a Girl

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Photograph by Kirk Weddle
WRITTEN BY
Steve Kandell

In the summer of 1991, DGC Records hired Kirk Weddle, an advertising photographer specializing in underwater work, to shoot the cover of the much-anticipated album by recent signees, Nirvana. He borrowed Spencer Elden, the toddler son of some friends, and decamped to a local Los Angeles pool for the now-iconic shot. But somewhere out there, unbeknownst to her, there's a nearly 21-year-old girl who was this close to being the Nevermind baby. (If you're her, give us a call!)

Kirk Weddle (photographer):
At the time, I was mostly shooting cars -- brochures and stuff. I didn't even know Nirvana. Kurt originally wanted a shot of a kid being born underwater, but Geffen thought that was a little extreme. I can't say for sure if the chasing the dollar bill was a dig at the label, but that's how it looks.

We originally shot Spencer -- one dunk, give him a little shove, bang bang bang -- and that was it, a half a roll of film. But that's a difficult thing to deliver to a client, like, "Here's your one frame, gimme my check," and it was such a dick shot. So I went to this school where they teach babies to swim and offered $50 to bring their kids to try out and $200 if we picked them as a model. This one girl was like a machine -- couldn't walk, couldn't talk, but she would just motor around underwater. The labels saw the photos and were like, "We want the dick, we want the dick." It was bizarre. I have no idea at all who the girl was or where she is now. I'd like to know what happened to that chick.

After the shoot, they were like, "Hey, here's a bunch of tickets, come to the show." I've had people love the photo, I've had people give me grief about it, but it held up and it's a cool image. But I don't want that defining my life.

Now that Spencer's old enough, I'd like to shoot him swimming nude again. Would you guys do full-frontal adult male nudity?

As told to Steve Kandell

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