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Kirk Weddle's Nirvana Photos - Outtakes from the Iconic 'Nevermind' Album Cover

Kurt Cobain captured in a cold LA swimming pool during a publicity photo shoot for Nirvana in 1991. © Kirk Weddle

The baby-floating-in-water cover for Nirvana's Nevermind album is one of contemporary rock’s most iconic. It was shot by Austin-based photographer Kirk Weddle, and Rockarchive is now the exclusive UK distributor of some behind-the-scenes photos from this historic shoot.

Weddle was just starting out when he got the assignment to photograph the band, who were relatively unknown at the time. Not only was he tasked with shooting the now classic cover, a photo of a baby (Spencer Elden) underwater reaching for a dollar on a fishing hook. But he also had to shoot some promo shots for the band, which involved them larking about, and jumping in a swimming pool in reference to the cover.

Taken on the set for a Nirvana publicity shoot for their album 'Nevermind'. © Kirk Weddle

The story goes that the band were all tired from touring and weren’t in the best of moods when it came to doing the promo shots. It was a cold, overcast day in Los Angeles on 28 October 1991, so Kurt Cobain and bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic didn’t much feel like jumping in a swimming pool to do some pics.

And while the label loved the album cover Weddle had shot, he noted that the complimentary promo shots of the band didn’t go down so well. "When I had shot the album cover, I was like the golden child. But with these, they were like, 'We hate 'em.'" he told Rolling Stone. And so Weddle hid them away in a closet for years.

Dave Grohl messing around during his Nirvana days whilst on a publicity photo shoot, taken in Los Angeles in 1991. © Kirk Weddle

But on the 25th anniversary of the shoot back in 2016, Weddle put on an exhibition of around 200 outtakes from what he took that day in collaboration with an Austin gallery. And now Rockarchive has a selection of these you can buy, and is only the second gallery to be allowed to sell them.

Kirk Weddle photograph of Nirvana playing instruments underwater in a Californian swimming pool in October 1991. © Kirk Weddle

The photos available from Rockarchive show Kurt Cobain underwater, mimicking the album pose of the baby wearing just jean shorts. Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic also get involved, with all three bringing along their instruments, guitars, drums and drumsticks, for a subaqueous jamming session (“It's hard to get three guys underwater at the same time, looking kind of good. So we did a lot of practice and a lot of trial and error and finally banged it out.” noted Weddle).

Nirvana captured during a publicity photoshoot for their pivotal album 'Nevermind', taken in a Los Angeles swimming pool. © Kirk Weddle

There’s also a shot of the three of them in a row together, heads just bobbing above the surface—and we can see Cobain yawning, no doubt a sign of exhaustion from their recent tour and the toll of the shoot. Although he is smiling in many of the other shots (and asleep in another).

From Weddle’s interview with Rolling Stone, it sounds like it was no small task coaxing the three of them into the water. And the photos nearly ended up with a naked Nirvana in them, which was what Weddle wanted. But their management wasn’t having it.

Underwater photo of Krist Novoselic in a LA swimming pool whilst on a Nirvana publicity shoot in 1991. © Kirk Weddle

According to Weddle though, Novoselic sounded like the most rock and roll of them all on the shoot, asking for a bottle of Jack Daniels to drink while they were doing it. Dave Grohl he said was “super cool in the water. He would do anything. He had it together.” While Cobain seemed like the most laid back.

“He seemed like the nicest, sweetest guy.” says Weddle. “He was kind of shy and withdrawn, but he just seemed like a really kind person. He wasn't standoffish, he wasn't one of those guys like, ‘Hey, don't make eye contact with me’ – that kind of thing. He didn't have an entourage; he was straightforward. But he was just a quiet, reserved guy. Very mellow. I had to convince him and beg him to do the shoot.”

Kurt Cobain sleeping on a poolside whilst on Nirvana publicity shoot for 'Nevermind' in 1991. © Kirk Weddle

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer these fascinating Kirk Weddle images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here. We are also delighted to offer many other iconic Kurt Cobain and Nirvana images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.

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