"The record label didn't consider this a very successful shoot," photographer Kirk Weddle says of the underwater photos he took of Nirvana to complement the cover he shot for Nevermind. "When I had shot the album cover, I was like the golden child. But with these, they were like, 'We hate 'em.'" He subsequently stuffed them away in a closet for years.
Although the initial experience soured Weddle on the shoot, he's since come around to the photos, which he took between the band's tour dates at around 10 a.m. on October 28th, 1991, a very cold day in Los Angeles. "Maybe 10, 15 years ago I got a few of them out and they looked pretty good," he says. Now, as Nevermind turns 25 this month, he's fully embraced the shoot and has teamed with the Austin, Texas–based Modern Rocks Gallery for a showcase of some of the 200 photos he took that day, including some never-before-seen alternate shots.
When Weddle looks back on the shoot today, he's still struck by how difficult it was. He'd had to bolt a rented drum kit to a ladder so they could flip it upside down in the water. It was his first time meeting the band members, and they were exhausted – Kurt Cobain even took a nap. Meanwhile, the water was cold enough that the photographer donned a wetsuit. "The guys were like, 'Wow, we've got to swim in this?'" he says with a laugh. "Kurt is not a really water-oriented guy. He was like, 'Wow, this is a drag.' But everybody was pretty good sports about it."
Here, he recalls how he coaxed Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl into the pool and shares never-before-seen outtakes, including one image from the Nevermind cover shoot itself.