Kevin Cummins was born within crying distance of Maine Road in Withington Hospital on 14 July 1953. His first game at Maine Road was a 3-1 victory over Leicester on 19 August 1961. Since then he has followed City over land and sea (and Stretford) for over 45 years. The rest of his time is spent earning a living as one of the world’s most venerated music and portrait photographers.
After studying photography for four years in Salford, Kevin embarked on a career that was to encompass a wide range of photographic work. The burgeoning punk scene in Manchester dominated his early work and he quickly became one of the premier documentary photographers of the era.
He then started working with Manchester’s prestigious Royal Exchange Theatre and was soon in demand by major theatre companies across the UK, most notably: The Royal Opera House, The Royal Northern Ballet, The Liverpool Playhouse and The Oxford Playhouse.
Kevin was instrumental in establishing City Life, Manchester’s ‘what’s on’ guide and was a founding contributor to The Face, the influential style magazine where he won an award for Magazine Cover of the Year.
In 1986 Kevin was commissioned by Wigan Heritage Centre to photograph contemporary life in Wigan – an important period for the town due to the widespread closure of Britain’s coal mines. These photographs formed a major part of the Wigan Pier heritage tour for 15 years.
Since moving to London in 1987, Kevin has contributed to many major UK publications, including: The Times, The Observer, The Guardian, Esquire, Maxim, Elle, Vogue, Mojo, FourFourTwo, Sleaze Nation and The Big Issue.
He spent 10 years as the chief photographer for New Musical Express – the world’s biggest selling rock weekly – where his award-winning pictures were a major contributing factor in the rise of the Madchester and Cool Britannia scenes.
His work can be seen gracing many record sleeves and book jackets and he regularly contributes to publications worldwide.
He also shoots regularly for The National Theatre in London.
In 1987, Kevin was commissioned by Salford City Art Gallery to photograph 40 famous Salfordians to celebrate the LS Lowry centenary. His personal choice included: Sir Alistair Cooke, Albert Finney, Celia Birtwell, Kenneth Wolstenholme, John Virgo, John Cooper Clarke, Happy Mondays and Graham Nash. He was subsequently short-listed for the Fox Talbot award. One of the premier photographic honours.
In 1999 The National Portrait Gallery chose three of Kevin’s photographs for their Icon’s of Pop exhibition.
Kevin’s first monograph: The Smiths and Beyond was published to critical acclaim by Vision On in March 2002.
2002: Kevin is a major contributing photographer to Rock X-Posed, a Kodak sponsored US touring exhibition of the best Rock ‘n’ Roll photos in the world. After touring, the pictures will be exhibited permanently in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio.
Later that year, Kevin approached Manchester City Football Club with a view to recording their last season at Maine Road – their home for 80 years – before they moved to a brand new stadium. The result is We’re not really here (the title is taken from a fans’ song). The book was published in August 2003 in two editions: a regular soft back – which sold out within three months of publication, and a collector’s edition, containing autographs of City idols past and present and a limited edition photograph.
The award-winning team at Farrow Design designed the book which was subsequently nominated for the Citibank photography prize as well as reaching #1 in the Sportspages best-sellers chart.
2003: Both NME and Q chose a large proportion of Kevin’s photographs for their 50 best Rock and Roll images of all time.
For the NME 50th anniversary, Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft each chose two of Kevin’s NME cover photographs as the best iconic rock and roll images and most defining moments of their generation.
In 2004, celebrated British artist, Scott King, produced a frieze based on Kevin’s iconic images of Ian Curtis.
In 2005, The Godfather of Pop-Art, Sir Peter Blake, produced a screen-print based on one of Kevin’s images of Ian Curtis.
In 2006, Kevin finally exhibited a selection of his Joy Division photographs – at London’s prestigious Paul Stolper Gallery. Paul Stolper also published a limited edition portfolio of the works, to much acclaim.
In December 2007 The National Portrait Gallery in London bought another of Kevin’s photographs for their permanent collection. This photograph of Tony Wilson was chosen as their image of the month for December.
In 2008 Kevin was invited to become a founder member of the World Photography Academy and to sit on the judging panel for the Sony World Photography Awards.
In Feb 2008, To Hell With Publishing produced a limited edition monograph of Kevin’s Joy Division photographs. It sold out prior to publication. Controversial British Artist, Stella Vine, worked with Kevin to produce a painting based on his iconic image of the late Richey Edwards (The Manic St. Preachers). Cummins also collaborated with adidas-Y3, Ben Kelly and Peter Saville to produce a limited edition shoe (250 pieces) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Haçienda – the iconic nightclub from Manchester’s past – as well as contributing a large quantity of photographs to the Urbis Hacienda 25 exhibition in Manchester
2009, Faber and Faber publish Kevin’s 400 page monograph, Manchester: Looking For The Light Through The Pouring Rain. There is an accompanying exhibition at the Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester and at Salts Mill in Saltaire, Yorkshire.
An exhibition entitled: The Crucial 30. For The Hard Day’s Night Gallery in Liverpool, featuring 30 photographs of Liverpool musicians.
Several exhibitions including: Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Portland Museum of Art (Portland ME), Who Shot Rock ‘n’ Roll: A photographic history (Brooklyn Museum and touring) and See This Sound (Lentos Art Museum, Linz, Austria).
Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music Photography at the Record of the Day Awards
2010, a career retrospective exhibition is held in Reggio Emilia (Italy) for Fotografia Europea 2010.
Manchester: Looking for the Light Through the Pouring Rain wins a Pride of Manchester award for best book of the year.
A monograph entitled Joy Division is published by Rizzoli (New York) in October and is subsequently published in France and Germany.
Arca is exhibited at Somerset House in London from November until January (2011).Kevin is currently working on:
Guest editing a Literary Journal, for To Hell with Publishing.
His photographs are held in the permanent collections of:
Plus many private collectors