He spent 20 years at the NME and has taken iconic images of David Bowie, Bjork, Patti Smith, Morrissey and more. His body of work is unparalleled, and his images have appeared in collections at the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
He’s also a lifelong Manchester City supporter, and in 2003 he produced a book detailing the Club’s final season at Maine Road, a collection of brilliant images that define our old Moss Side home.
Last week, he took Blossoms around Stockport to photograph them in the new PUMA Third Kit, and I had a chat to him about his career and the relationship between music and football….
[All photography courtesy of Kevin Cummins]
Kevin, thanks for joining us. Let’s start with the new kit. You got to see it close up when you took Blossoms on a shoot. What are your thoughts?
“It works perfectly as a successor to last season’s Hacienda away shirt.
“It’s great because paisley is something that’s been around since the sixties as far as we know and has always been associated with bands – not just from Manchester but the [Rolling] Stones as well. It has a really strong lineage. It’s amazing to do a football shirt with it.
“And as digital becomes more sophisticated, you can be more playful with the third kit. Research shows third kits are bought by younger people, so it has that appeal. It looks great on the players, it looks great on young people and looks great on Blossoms.
“Blossoms looked perfect in it – it massively suited their look. When we went into their studio, it has a real 70s vibe and we were wearing stuff like that in the seventies.”
Everyone talks about the relationship between music and football. When did it start and why are the two so tightly linked?
"People dabbled with it before New Order and World In Motion – but New Order doing the England song in 1990 was the catalyst for massive change.
“Prior to 1990, football was seen as uncool – it was falling apart and needed change.
“Change came in 1990 with Italia 90, New Order and then in 1992 with the birth of the Premier League.
“Italia 90 made it so everyone was dead into it. So, the start of 1991, people who had never been to a match were dying to go to one, and bands were coming out of the woodwork and saying who they supported.
“When I started with Joy Division, Ian was the only one who liked it – he’d been to see City quite a lot - Deborah Curtis said to me he wanted to buy a house on Maine Road – but the others knew nothing.
"By 1994 with Oasis, it was natural to photograph them in their shirts. We were sponsored by Brother, which was a gift for me. Then Damon [Albarn] had to pick a team, which was Chelsea and he still goes now. But before that he never used to mention it.
“Everyone has a team now. But prior to Italia 90 and maybe start of Premier League, bands didn’t really talk about football. It was rare we would put anything about football in NME.
“I photographed New Order for World In Motion for NME. I got the sky blue England kit, which was the third kit because I didn’t want to photo them in red. It was really hard - even the FA Couldn’t get the sky blue shirt but I bought one from a sports shop and took it with me.
“Bernard didn’t have a clue, he just wore it for me. It was a great moment getting a City coloured shirt on the front cover of the NME.”
You’re a lifelong fan and you go home and away. Why is your bond with City so strong?
“It’s been the longest constant in my life. I started going as a kid – my grandparents lived down the road from Maine Road. I would see them and then go to the game and I got hooked.
“Football for me was a really solitary thing to do. I didn’t know any City fans. We grew up in Salford and I went to a grammar school there and everyone was a red. I just thought going to football was something you did on your own until I met Rob Gretton [Joy Division manager].
“I started going with Rob Gretton and Mike Pickering and we’d sit apart but go to and from the game together. I used to love going on my own. Now I go with a big group, but again we all sit in different parts of the stadium.
“I honestly don’t know why the bond is so strong. A lot of people have constants in their life – job, home life, whatever – for me I’ve never really had that.
“I’ve also lived in London for 33 years, so City has been my connection with my home city and also because I go with my daughter, it’s a bond I have with her.
“And she’s as obsessed as me. When I was younger, if I couldn’t get back from a trip to the states or whatever, Rob would take her. She didn’t want to miss a match. My friends became her friends.
“With City I always loved the shirt colour. I loved it. I always thought it was a better blue than Coventry – they nicked our colour – and it always looked continental. When I saw Argentina at the 66 World Cup in sky blue, that was exciting. That’s why I like watching them.”
If you had to choose the top five images you’ve taken with Manchester bands, what would they be?
"My choice might be different to other people’s choice – everyone would say Joy Division on the bridge. I like different ones at different times.
"The Stone Roses covered in paint would probably be in there. Three of them were United fans and I painted them in sky blue and white because I was in charge. It didn’t even occur to them until they saw the Polaroids!
"Liam Gallagher Under Oasis bar sign, which is cover of my Britpop book out next month.
"Ian Curtis in the overcoat, staring straight at the lens, would be another.
"Morrissey in silhouette by the Rochdale canal. You know it’s him immediately.
"And Bernard Sumner walking along the street in New York at 6am."