Nirvana’s classic album Nevermind turns 25 on Saturday. In 1991, for the album’s release, underwater photographer Kirk Weddle was hired by Geffen Records to photograph both its album cover, a naked baby underwater, and promo shots of Nirvana hanging out in a pool.
Taken in Los Angeles on Oct. 28, 1991, the shoot proved to be very difficult. Not only was the band exhausted from touring, but it was a cold, cloudy day and the last thing they wanted to do was go swimming for a photo shoot. The label initially didn’t like the photos, causing Weddle to store them in a closet for a number of years afterward.
TIME: First off, can you tell me how you came to be involved with shooting the Nevermind cover and these photos of the band?
Weddle: I got a call from an art director, Robert Fisher, at Geffen. He was looking for a picture of a baby underwater and he was hoping I had one. I didn’t, and he kept searching and couldn’t find one, so he called back asked me to shoot the cover. It was a great concept, a baby underwater unable to breath, going after money on a fishhook. After Nevermind was a big hit, they came back to me to shoot the band underwater.
How was the shoot with Nirvana different than other stuff you were working on at the time?
I was pushing myself as an underwater photographer, but I was mostly a photo assistant working on car gigs, brochures for Lexus and Chevy, etc.
Were you a fan of Nirvana prior to this shoot, had you heard Bleach?
No, I had never heard of them. I didn’t even know if the album would sell. I had no clue!
What was your favorite memory working on this shoot?
The whole thing was a blast. I shot them a couple months after Nevermind had dropped. By that time I knew these guys we unstoppable and it was kind of cool to see some guys that were gonna make it all the way.
Can you describe the mood of the shoot, were the bands members totally ok with getting wet?
Shooting the band was tough. It was a cold, cloudy day and the pool wasn’t very nice and clean. Shooting a touring band in the morning is just stupid, they are not morning guys. They were all good guys, but Kurt was super tired, he showed up and went right to sleep. They didn’t want to be in the water, they wanted to be on the bus headed to San Francisco for that night’s gig.
Afterwards, did you have a million bands asking to shoot in a pool?
No bands, but I get my share of Nirvana fans that want themselves or their baby’s photo in the drink.
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