I first discovered Joy Division through my friend Jay Haley in 1985-86. Jay was a little more open-minded than I was, so he was listening to aggressive punk and hardcore, but also, more moody music like The Smiths, The Cure, early Cult, and Joy Division. I initially liked some of Joy Division’s melodies, but I generally found the music a bit cold, sparse, and haunting on the verge of depressing. However, the music grew on me over time and the qualities I just described as liabilities became assets. As I grew out of my punk rock orthodoxy phase I realized no band sounded quite like Joy Division. My love of Joy Division has only grown over the years along with my appreciation for their imagery. Joy Division’s image of elegant austerity is often connected to their artwork by Peter Saville, but a lot of credit should go to Kevin Cumminsfor his noir portraits of the band. I’ve loved Cummin’s photography for years, so I was delighted when he agreed to collaborate on a portrait of Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s singer who took his own life in 1980 at 23. Curtis was a unique singer but also a powerful lyricist, so the lyrics to the song Heart and Soul are woven through the art along with an angular divide through Curtis’s figure symbolizing the tension between heart and soul. Since Kevin actually knew Ian, I appreciated that he would allow me to interpret his iconic photo!
Whenever I photographed Ian, I wanted to capture his intensity. My brief (to myself) was to portray Ian, and the other members of Joy Division, as serious young men. They were serious about their music of course, but mostly they were typical of young lads everywhere, in that they were relatively carefree. Ian always seemed different. His intensity shines though his face and his piercing eyes. That’s what I always hoped to achieve with my photos, and the fact that they still resonate so strongly, bears testimony to that.
Ian Curtis Heart and Soul. 18 x 24 inches. Screen print on thick cream Speckletone paper. Original Illustration based on photograph by Kevin Cummins. Signed by Shepard Fairey and Kevin Cummins. Numbered edition of 500. Comes with a Digital Certificate of Authenticity provided by Verisart. $85. A portion of the proceeds will go to CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). Available on Thursday, March 30th @ 10 AM PDT at https://store.obeygiant.com. Max order: 1 per customer/household. International customers are responsible for import fees due upon delivery (Except UK orders under $160). ALL SALES FINAL.