Although they only released two albums during their short run, Joy Division remains one of the most important and beloved bands of the late-’70s post-punk movement, influencing generations of cold, black-clad imitators. In the three decades since Ian Curtis’s death, he has become one of music’s darkest and most solemnly worshiped cult figures. He has been immortalized in countless books and films, printed on all kinds of T-shirts, and his song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” probably holds some kind of record for teenage mixtape overuse.
But even if you think you’ve seen enough of Joy Division to last you a lifetime, you’ll want to make space for Kevin Cummins’s Joy Division (Rizzoli New York, 2010), a book that combines the author’s striking black-and-white images of the band with photos of their instruments, set lists, and flyers, and Curtis’s lyrics and notebooks.
It’s illuminating, as a fan, to examine Curtis’s cross-outs and fun to ogle the concert flyers and fantasize about having attended those shows. Equally absorbing is an unexpected, pitch-perfect foreword by Jay McInerney, who talks about blasting Closer while he wrote Bright Lights, Big City. And the inclusion of a long discussion between Cummins and Bernard Sumner is a great music-nerd read.
But it’s Cummins’s photos, each blown up to fill an entire, large page, that make the book essential for all Joy Division lovers. Known for his photography of the Manchester music scene, Cummins shows the band against the stark backdrop of the dying industrial city in winter, its old churches, plain residential buildings, roads, and (in one famous series) bridges covered in a thin blanket of snow. There are plenty of concert shots here, but it’s the intimate portraits of individual band members (Curtis especially) in their dusty, paper-strewn practice space and those photos of the band around Manchester that hit the hardest.
Click through for a gallery of images from Joy Division, including a notebook page with lyrics to “She’s Lost Control.”
Kevin Cummins, Joy Division, Rizzoli New York, 2010