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Kevin Cummins

Photographer — Manchester

Name, where are you from?
Kevin Cummins, Manchester, England.

Describe your style in three words?
Smart, casual, accessorised.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
What an impossible question to answer. Tom Waits in Berlin. Do I need to explain why?

If you could be on the line up with any two bands or artists in history?
I’ve never actually wanted to be in a band - I’m happy photographing them. But if I could duet with Dylan with Prince playing guitar, that would be a bold move.

Which Subcultures have influenced you?
The movement from Skinhead to Suedehead in the late '60s. It was impossibly stylish and didn’t cost a lot to look great. Punk in the mid to late '70s because it was a great movement and I suppose I cut my teeth photographing it extensively. Acid House / baggy. Again it was great to photograph. Britpop. Coolest British pop movement for style - forget the New Romantic movement, Britpop was proper street fashion.

If you could spend an hour with anyone from history?
Diane Arbus. I’ve always been fascinated by her life ever since I studied her at Art School. I’ve learned a lot from her - posthumously. I’d love to have spent some time getting to know her.

Of all the venues you’ve been to, which is your favourite?
The Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Because it’s the most wonderful Opera house in the world with great acoustics. Every visit is a magical experience.

Your greatest unsung hero or heroine in music?
Rowland S Howard. I love Nick Cave, but Rowland’s influence on him is hugely undervalued.


Kevin Cummins was chief photographer at the NME for more than a decade. Among his multitude of iconic images, he documented much of the musical and cultural movement in the first half of the 1990s. A new compilation curated by Kevin Cummins takes a deeper look at the era.

Kevin Cummins' Caught Beneath The Landslide: The Other Side Of Britpop and the 90s' out via Demon Music Group on 14 May. Find out more here.

The first track you played on repeat?
'To Love Somebody' by Nina Simone. It was one of the first singles I bought with my own money. I didn’t really have many others to play. But I still love it - and can't really go wrong with a Bee Gees penned track.

A song that defines the teenage you?
'007' by Desmond Dekker and the Aces. When we were teenagers, we used to go to a disco at North Salford Youth Club, then to Chiltern’s, a dancehall place in Cheetham Hill. Bluebeat and Ska were relatively underground then, and we knew we were listening to music our parents wouldn’t approve of. It wasn’t played on the radio either, so Chiltern’s was the best place to hear it. It was also very culturally mixed. It was full of kids wanting to hear their own type of music. I live in Tooting in south London now, and I’ve been to visit Desmond Dekker’s grave in Streatham Park Cemetery - I guess to thank him for opening my mind to a different sound.

One record you would keep forever?
'White Wedding' by Rowland S Howard. Rowland was the magic ingredient in The Birthday Party. His solo albums are wonderful and this dark version of Billy Idol’s hit song is really beautiful.

A song lyric that has inspired you?
'Champagne Supernova' by Oasis has to go here. I took a line from it, not only for my Britpop compilation 'Caught Beneath the Landslide' but also for my Britpop book (Pub. Cassell / Octopus): While We Were Getting High. So thanks Noel.

A song you wished you had written?
'Sugar Town' by Nancy Sinatra. It’s written by Lee Hazelwood, a great, great songwriter. It’s a wonderfully uplifting song. I had the pleasure of spending a day with Lee in Berlin to shoot what became his final album before he died. He knew he was dying but he promised me he wouldn’t die mid-shoot.

Best song to turn up loud?
How many Prince songs can I have here? The Future (Electric Chair Remix) - failing that, 'Hot Thing' from ’Sign O the Times'

A song people wouldn’t expect you to like?
'Time After Time' by Cyndi Lauper. I love Miles Davis’ version of this song too. I photographed Cyndi for the NME. She was really lovely to work with.

The song to get you straight on the dance floor?
I’m not sure anything can do that. But I’ve been known to tap my feet to 'True Faith' by New Order.

Best song to end an all-nighter?
'Set Adrift on Memory Bliss' by PM Dawn.

Any new bands you are into at the moment?
I like Porridge Radio, 'Pop Song' is a lovely track. I listen to a lot of Jazz really, and while not exactly new, Keyon Harold (who played trumpet on the Miles Ahead soundtrack - (at times sounding more like Miles Davis than Miles himself) is great. I saw him at Ronnie Scott’s just prior to lockdown. He looks the part and plays the trumpet like an angel. 'Wayfaring Traveller' is a good track to start with, although 'MB Lament' shows his skills off better. Moses Boyd is great too. I can’t wait to see these guys playing again, once we get back to some kind of normal.

Name, where are you from?
Kevin Cummins, Manchester, England.

Describe your style in three words?
Smart, casual, accessorised.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
What an impossible question to answer. Tom Waits in Berlin. Do I need to explain why?

If you could be on the line up with any two bands or artists in history?
I’ve never actually wanted to be in a band - I’m happy photographing them. But if I could duet with Dylan with Prince playing guitar, that would be a bold move.

Which Subcultures have influenced you?
The movement from Skinhead to Suedehead in the late '60s. It was impossibly stylish and didn’t cost a lot to look great. Punk in the mid to late '70s because it was a great movement and I suppose I cut my teeth photographing it extensively. Acid House / baggy. Again it was great to photograph. Britpop. Coolest British pop movement for style - forget the New Romantic movement, Britpop was proper street fashion.

If you could spend an hour with anyone from history?
Diane Arbus. I’ve always been fascinated by her life ever since I studied her at Art School. I’ve learned a lot from her - posthumously. I’d love to have spent some time getting to know her.

Of all the venues you’ve been to, which is your favourite?
The Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Because it’s the most wonderful Opera house in the world with great acoustics. Every visit is a magical experience.

Your greatest unsung hero or heroine in music?
Rowland S Howard. I love Nick Cave, but Rowland’s influence on him is hugely undervalued.


Kevin Cummins was chief photographer at the NME for more than a decade. Among his multitude of iconic images, he documented much of the musical and cultural movement in the first half of the 1990s. A new compilation curated by Kevin Cummins takes a deeper look at the era.

Kevin Cummins' Caught Beneath The Landslide: The Other Side Of Britpop and the 90s' out via Demon Music Group on 14 May. Find out more here.

The first track you played on repeat?
'To Love Somebody' by Nina Simone. It was one of the first singles I bought with my own money. I didn’t really have many others to play. But I still love it - and can't really go wrong with a Bee Gees penned track.

A song that defines the teenage you?
'007' by Desmond Dekker and the Aces. When we were teenagers, we used to go to a disco at North Salford Youth Club, then to Chiltern’s, a dancehall place in Cheetham Hill. Bluebeat and Ska were relatively underground then, and we knew we were listening to music our parents wouldn’t approve of. It wasn’t played on the radio either, so Chiltern’s was the best place to hear it. It was also very culturally mixed. It was full of kids wanting to hear their own type of music. I live in Tooting in south London now, and I’ve been to visit Desmond Dekker’s grave in Streatham Park Cemetery - I guess to thank him for opening my mind to a different sound.

One record you would keep forever?
'White Wedding' by Rowland S Howard. Rowland was the magic ingredient in The Birthday Party. His solo albums are wonderful and this dark version of Billy Idol’s hit song is really beautiful.

A song lyric that has inspired you?
'Champagne Supernova' by Oasis has to go here. I took a line from it, not only for my Britpop compilation 'Caught Beneath the Landslide' but also for my Britpop book (Pub. Cassell / Octopus): While We Were Getting High. So thanks Noel.

A song you wished you had written?
'Sugar Town' by Nancy Sinatra. It’s written by Lee Hazelwood, a great, great songwriter. It’s a wonderfully uplifting song. I had the pleasure of spending a day with Lee in Berlin to shoot what became his final album before he died. He knew he was dying but he promised me he wouldn’t die mid-shoot.

Best song to turn up loud?
How many Prince songs can I have here? The Future (Electric Chair Remix) - failing that, 'Hot Thing' from ’Sign O the Times'

A song people wouldn’t expect you to like?
'Time After Time' by Cyndi Lauper. I love Miles Davis’ version of this song too. I photographed Cyndi for the NME. She was really lovely to work with.

The song to get you straight on the dance floor?
I’m not sure anything can do that. But I’ve been known to tap my feet to 'True Faith' by New Order.

Best song to end an all-nighter?
'Set Adrift on Memory Bliss' by PM Dawn.

Any new bands you are into at the moment?
I like Porridge Radio, 'Pop Song' is a lovely track. I listen to a lot of Jazz really, and while not exactly new, Keyon Harold (who played trumpet on the Miles Ahead soundtrack - (at times sounding more like Miles Davis than Miles himself) is great. I saw him at Ronnie Scott’s just prior to lockdown. He looks the part and plays the trumpet like an angel. 'Wayfaring Traveller' is a good track to start with, although 'MB Lament' shows his skills off better. Moses Boyd is great too. I can’t wait to see these guys playing again, once we get back to some kind of normal.