An evening that had the potential for sparks to fly didn’t disappoint, as iconic bassist Peter Hook met with long term friend, colleague and occasional rival, Kevin Cummins, the legendary photographer responsible for documenting Joy Division and the images within the current incredibly popular EXEMPLAR exhibit, currently on show at Manchester Photographic.
Alongside representatives from the BBC, MEN, local press and the families of both Peter and Kevin, one hundred and fifty fortunate ticket holders were in attendance to witness the event, compared by Liverpudlian author and former manager of The Farm, Kevin Sampson, who carefully directed conversation, beginning with the origins of the band as Hooky reminisced over passing up the chance to be called ‘Stiff Kittens’, before choosing Warsaw and then finally Joy Division.
Conversation flowed, as Peter discussed the focus of the band in the early days, taking their music far more seriously than some of the avant-garde acts that they shared stages with. Appreciating that they needed to develop their sound, their work with producer Martin Hannett was not accepted by the whole band to start with, however, the dark brooding atmosphere created on Unknown Pleasures set the band apart from their peers.
It was then Kevin’s chance to disclose his role in developing the bands image through his iconic photography. The story goes that on the day of the infamous photo shoot in the snow streets of Hulme, Manchester, he was supposed to be at Maine Road to watch City play in the FA Cup, only for the game to be cancelled due to the weather. Within the resulting photoshoot, Kevin was to take the defining pictures of the band, capturing the bleak and sparse atmosphere that worked so fittingly alongside the music.
Culminating in a short Q&A session, giving the audience a chance to quiz Peter and Kevin any burning questions, and to Peter’s dismay, he discovers that some train spotters are also Joy Division fans.
The evening drew to a close with a book signing and an opportunity for fans to meet their heroes. It was clear that those present are still enthused by the band, and this evening had witnessed something extremely special, as two of Manchester’s greatest icons offered a rare insight into a group that retains it’s cult status. Joy Division continue to enthral each generation that discovers their unmistakable music, and their influence lives on after over 30 years, in many ways thanks to the iconic photographs that documented their plight as musicians and individuals.
Written by Simon Bray