Harsh light and barred shadow. Faceless figures peering into, what? – The future? The abyss?

Lingering, shadowed, shrouded in coat that could be a cloak, a solitary figure looks back. A black slash of brow makes dark pools of his eyes, the mouth is neutral, chin and nose bold gestures. What lurks in that hooded gaze: loneliness? Boredom? Disaffection?

It is easy to read Anton Corbijn’s November 1979 photo of Ian Curtis glancing to camera while his bandmates – shoulder to shoulder – stare in the opposite direction, as a foreshadowing of Curtis’s suicide six months later.

Tempting, always, to paint the past with our present mood or knowledge.

Curtis’s face, pale between Lego-block hair and coal greatcoat, seems, posthumously, to coax sympathy. The turn, though, wasn’t his idea. Corbijn, speaking to the Guardian in 2007, said, “I had this idea that if people walk away they walk towards unknown pleasures, and I just thought it would look good if one of them looked back. It wasn't planned.”

Other photos from the shoot complicate the image of isolation. The band stands side-by-side, a Mancunian Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan; they form a intimate huddle, Curtis in profile.

Look long enough at the iconic backward glance and other possibilities emerge. Curtis asserting the singular power of his image; Curtis glinting mischief behind a sombre facade; Curtis silently willing the nervous photographer to hurry the hell up so they can get lunch.

Yes, the image holds a premonition of loss. But why can’t it contain worlds?

Joy Division were epoch-makers. Ian Curtis a songwriter and performer of astonishing prowess. They felt pride and delight; their music reverberated with creative power.

To me, this photo says many things; not least, that we needn’t view Ian Curtis and Joy Division through a dark lens. “Everyone forgets,” wrote Jack Gilbert, “that Icarus also flew.”

Related Links:


Commenting On: The Image That Made Me Weep - Joy Division

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

23952 Posted By: Andrew Twambley (manchester UK)

excellent piece
certainly the best photo of the band i Have seen...and i have seen them all

First Previous Next Last