Incendiary speak to the legendary Kevin Cummins

Where are the squats now? Where are the dole kids? These days you need a five year plan and a top floor penthouse in an Urban Splash Urban Identikit box room.



Incendiary speak to the legendary Kevin Cummins.


Recently we sent legendary photographer Kevin Cummins a couple of questions. For music-heads, I suppose Kevin Cummins is most famous for his portrayal of the incredibly fertile punk and new wave scene in Manchester. Simply put he documented the era and created for many impressionable kids in the '80s, (like me), the defining images for the city's music at that time. Another subject close to his heart, football has been the inspiration of many of his (to my mind) best pictures. And it's worthwhile to check out his site for further shots. The photos in this article have been reproduced with the kind permission of Kevin himself.


IN: Is Manchester a state of mind Kevin?


KC: Manchester in the 70s was a reality. Today's Manchester is for urban professionals. It's become a homogenised city. To be creative, cities need room for head-expansion, not chrome and steel expansion. The reason Manchester was so creatively fertile in the 70s and 80s was paradoxically thanks to Margaret Thatcher. She had no interest in people who were living on benefits. Consequently Hulme was allowed to develop as a creative nerve centre for the whole city. Thatcher and co. didn't care what 'young people' were getting up to. You could live on the dole and use your time to make art, music, film etc. There was space in which to work. 


Where are the squats now? Where are the dole kids? These days you need a five year plan and a top floor penthouse in an Urban Splash Urban Identikit box room.


Bring on the next social revolution.



IN: These MCFC tattoos you photographed; positioned just above the arse level... are they that common?


KC: Dunno. I've not seen that many female MCFC fans with their kit off...


IN: What is it about photographing football that interests you?


KC: The raw passion. The misplaced belief. The idealism. The colour. The hopes and dreams. The line from (I'm Forever) Blowing Bubbles, 'Just like my dreams, they fade and die' sums up watching football for most people in the world.


IN: I have to ask you about your involvement with the punk and new wave scene in Manchester. What was it as a photographer that initially attracted you to that scene?


KC: The raw passion, the excitement, the look. The fact that you could get right in the middle of it - rather than watching from 50ft away in some enormodome on the outskirts of Stafford...


IN: You must have some good stories...


KC: Lots. (Available at 14.99 from all good bookshops one day someday) (We'll hold you to that! – ed)


IN: Okay, so in less than 1500 words, Hex Enduction Hour or Perverted by Language? Put your head on the Fall fan's block... Actually they seem to be finding form again do they not?


KC: The Fall are currently the best band in the world. MES is a genius and a madman. How many bands are at their creative best 30 years down the line...



IN: Why do you find photographing musicians interesting? Granted you must have been spoiled for choice at times...


KC: Vanity. Intellect.


IN: What qualities do you look for in a subject? 


KC: Self-awareness. 


IN: Is photography purely about the subject matter?


KC: No. Real photography is about the relationship between photographer and subject. Albeit one that may have only been a fleeting moment. If I can fall in love with my subject - and vice versa - the photo won't lie.


Words: Richard Foster


Photos: With Kind Permission of Kevin Cummins