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Inside Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ Pool Party, 25 Years Later

See exclusive, never-before-seen pictures from photographer Kirk Weddle’s shoot

Nirvana Nevermind Photo Shoot Outtakes Exclusive See

Photographer Kirk Weddle discusses shooting Nirvana in a pool for 'Nevermind' and shares never-before-seen outtakes 25 years later.

Kirk Weddle

"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.

Nirvana Nevermind Photo Shoot Outtakes Exclusive See

Kirk Weddle

Off the Deep End

We did the shoot at a little funky pool over in this little apartment building in North Hollywood. It was an abandoned apartment building that they turned into a little scuba pool. And that was another thing: The band didn't like the pool but they didn't have a budget so we got a cheap-o pool. The cover shoot was at a really nice, Olympic-sized pool. We toyed with the idea of shooting down there, but I just didn't want to shoot a band at a public pool. I needed a little privacy.

Nirvana Nevermind Photo Shoot Outtakes Exclusive See

Kirk Weddle

Wrap Party

The people clapping are from Nirvana's management. I don't know their names anymore. The guy on the left, he's the art director, Robert Fisher. It was his concept and he's the concept guy for the album cover itself. I'm not sure why they didn't like the shoot. But that was long before digital and you couldn't shoot Polaroids underwater. They were looking at it from the outside; they weren't part of it. It would have been nice to know "They have to look beautiful" or "Kurt's hair has to be perfect." I didn't get any of that before.

Nir

Kirk Weddle

Pruning

Dave Grohl was probably in the water two hours. He was in the water the most. And I would probably say Kurt and Krist did about an hour in the water total. 

Nirvana Nevermind Photo Shoot Outtakes Exclusive See

Kirk Weddle

Kurt Cobain Naps

Kurt was so tired he went to sleep as soon as he got to the shoot, and nobody wanted to wake him up. So I was like, "All right, we'll just shoot him asleep for a while." We covered him up with a bathrobe, put a guitar next to him [laughs]. He was out for a long time, like 90 minutes.

Nirvana's Krist Novoselic discusses the 3 American Questions campaign. Watch here.