My Breakthrough Moment: Kevin Cummins

Having shot some of the biggest bands in the world and worked as the NME’s chief photographer for a decade, Kevin Cummins reflects on why his 2009 book Manchester: Looking For The Light Through The Pouring Rain marked a distinct turning point in his career

I think the idea of a breakthrough moment doesn’t necessarily work, because you have different moments at different stages of your career where something comes along and takes you in another direction. I’d already done two books and then Faber & Faber got in touch, initially to see if I’d be interested in doing an autobiography and I thought, well I haven’t finished living my life yet. I didn’t feel like I necessarily wanted to because as a photographer, especially when you shoot celebrity, you are always quite wary of coming across as the boring bloke in the corner of the pub telling his war stories.

We decided that it might be quite good to give it more of a focal point, rather than being a career retrospective, and focus solely on the work I’d done with Manchester musicians, because obviously I was from Manchester originally and it kind of made sense. I went to art school there, and I stayed in my hometown for quite a long time before I moved down to London in ’87 because I wanted to concentrate on shooting for the NME full time.

Top image and above: Stone Roses, shot by Kevin Cummins. All images courtesy of the artist

It took us almost four years to edit the book and put it together. It was only when I started editing it that I realised how much of an archive I had. I shot for the NME for such a long time, and you’re shooting so regularly that you don’t really have time to sit there and count all your pictures up, because you’re already on the next assignment.