In a summer of legendary Mancband reunion tours, those of us in The Smiths’ camp must acknowledge the sad truth that Morrissey and Marr won’t be re-forming the band anytime soon. (Or actually, like, ever.) But maybe that’s for the best. Instead of shelling out a fortune for some bound-to-be-disappointing Frankenstein-style resurrection, you can get yourself over to The Star & Garter’s monthly Smiths disco and celebrate the band’s 30th unhappy birthday with a good caterwaul along to There is a Light That Never Goes Out. Or you can even head south for Manchester: So Much to Answer For, an enticing exhibition about the band and their native city at Proud Camden.
Kevin Cummins was chief photographer of the NME during the decade that saw his town explode into popular culture first with the Madchester generation of bands, then with Oasis and Britpop. His photographs and portraits have been published all over the world. But before everything else, he was an upstart Mancunian photographer taking pictures of The Smiths right from their humble beginnings. That would be them above, looking young and touchingly out of place in the verdant surroundings of Dunham Massey in Cheshire.
It’s hard to talk about The Smiths without talking about Manchester; their music is so intertwined with the place they lived in. So it makes sense that this exhibition is about both The Smiths and the city that begat them. Striking and intimate photographs of the band, their fans and their mileu are displayed alongside images of the grim but lyrically inspiring post-industrial city that still lurks beneath the smooth surfaces and shiny shops of current-day Manchester. A place that was less safe than the city we live in, but possibly more interesting.
Manchester: So Much To Answer For, to 15 July 2012, Proud Camden, The Horse Hospital, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AH. www.proud.co.uk Words: Kate Feld. Image: The Smiths at Dunham Massey © Kevin Cummins 1983.