Tis

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In May 1980, Ian Cur­tis, lead singer of post-punk band Joy Divi­sion com­mit­ted sui­cide. Kevin’s por­trait of Cur­tis has since de­vel­oped iconic sta­tus

What were you in­tend­ing with the por­trait of Ian Cur­tis?

I thought a straight por­trait of Ian would make a bet­ter cover than a band shot. I got him to look straight into my eyes and then I brought the cam­era up so that he was still look­ing at me. The rest of the band stood near me try­ing to make him laugh. I told him to zone out and ig­nore them be­cause we wanted Joy Divi­sion to look like se­ri­ous young men. I felt it had the el­e­ments of clas­sic por­trai­ture. Why does it work as a clas­sic por­trait?

I think the strength of a good por­trait is to break the bar­rier of the cam­era down. It was taken in the street, with him stand­ing against a lamp­post on a very snowy day. How im­por­tant are these pic­tures?

Peo­ple’s per­cep­tions of artists are formed by those pic­tures. I did a talk where we were dis­cussing me­dia ma­nip­u­la­tion, and I said I wouldn’t want to re­lease pic­tures of Ian smil­ing be­cause it didn’t fit what we were try­ing to say about them. At the end of the talk, this girl came up to me and said: “Have you got any pic­tures of my dad smil­ing?” It was Natalie Cur­tis, his daugh­ter, who I hadn’t seen since she was a baby. She has no mem­ory of her fa­ther, but she knows him through my pic­tures. That’s quite a re­spon­si­bil­ity.

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