Vapours – Natalie Curtis

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VAPOURS (Early Works) is the debut photo book from Natalie Curtis. Spanning a four year post-university period through which she honed her photographic expertise and process. The work is a candid, chronological representation of her diverse personal and professional milieu, captured within environments ostensibly conventional, yet as disconcerting as the array of personalities that the images strive to depict. From band practice rooms in Manchester to the eerie vistas of Los Angeles, via the notorious bullrings of Madrid, this is the powerful and distinctive work from an artist at the very conception of her mode.

 

Get To Know: Natalie Curtis

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Natalie Curtis is an emerging conceptual artist and photographer, currently known for her abstract exhibits at Galarie Arnaud in Paris and Recontre Photograhique d’Arles in Arlon Belgium. Both exhibitions include portraits of bands such as Elbow, The Charlatans, Doves and actors Sam Riley, Samantha Morton from the film Control, a rather poignant film for Natalie. If her surname rings a bell it should, she’s the daughter of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. However word to the wise, don’t ask about him.

Instead, Natalie talks to Hunger TV about her own work, from creating abstract art to sending Chloe Sevigny a Valentines card .

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO RECENTLY? 

I haven’t been away since the end of last year, but there’s quite a lot going on in Manchester to do with music which I’m involved in. I’m currently listening to a band called Naked On Drugs they’re my favourite, and I am actually doing something with them next month. I also recently did an interesting shoot with SWAY Records, it was for a Valentine’s Day card that they sent out to supporters of the label – it involved naked guys wearing only knitwear and brandishing my horse riding whip and a Samurai sword.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA? 

SWAY had taken some naked photos previously and they tweeted the pictures to me to ask what I thought. So we had a meeting and I thought, fuck it, let’s do a shoot in my flat. I came up with the ideas as we went along, it was all very spontaneous.

DO YOU PLAN YOUR IDEAS IN ADVANCE?

It’s quite often a spur of the moment thing and in this case I was just using the space we had. All they knew was that they wanted to do something where they were naked and the Samurai sword was involved. I started to think it could be used as an interesting Valentine’s Day card so that’s why it was used for that concept. I didn’t want the images to have a comedy effect but to be more serious, it was interesting seeing who we heard back from and who we didn’t.

WHAT WAS THE REACTION TO IT?

People seemed to like it, but then there’re the people we didn’t hear from, so I don’t know what their view was! Inside the card stated ‘Manchester Is Paradise’. We sent one to the actress Chloe Sevigny because she had a really terrible time in Manchester, there were people in Manchester that didn’t like that she had done all these interviews saying how shit it was. Generally we sent cards to people who had bad Manchester experiences just to let them know that it is in fact good again really!

WHO HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE MUSICIANS TO PHOTOGRAPH LATELY? 

Myself and a character called Atrocity Boy who writes a blog – he writes reviews of gigs and I take the photos – have been working together quite closely recently shooting the local Manchester scene. There is a bigger project that we’re working on, the whole concept is that the reviews we do are out of the ordinary, so I made the conscious decision not to do live shots but instead taking photographs inside within a small space. They’re not regular reviews and so I have a lot a freedom and don’t necessarily have to take shots of the bands performing, in fact last time I consciously decided not to. The collaboration has developed into a bigger project that we’re currently working on, and we’ll announce more details soon.

WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO DO LIVE SHOTS?

A lot of the  time I find it quite boring unless it’s a special set of circumstances. I don’t like doing shots for the sake of doing gig shots.

YOU EXHIBITED YOUR CONCEPTUAL WORK AT GALERIE ARNAUD IN PARIS AND ALSO RECONTRE PHOTOGRAPHIQUE D’ARLES IN ARLON BELGIUM- HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

Paris was organised by a friend, film producer Michael H Shamberg, he connected lots of people together and so we put on the exhibition for a charity that Michael had set up. And with the Arlon exhibition, the organisers contacted me and I loved my initial ideas. In terms of the pieces I contributed it was all photos performers, but they were in situations the public normally wouldn’t see them in, people in their private spaces. I had pictures of the band Elbow with armchairs on their heads.

DO YOU THINK OF IDEAS FIRST AND THEN DECIDE ON THE MEDIUM OR DO YOU PICK UP THE CAMERA AND LOOK FOR A SUBJECT?

That’s a good question, a bit of both really, I mean sometimes something just happens and it needs photographing while other times I have an idea of something that I want and go about making it happen.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY THE EXTERNAL?

My work is about my environment and what is going on with me so there’s no point thinking about other places because when things are great elsewhere it can be easier to think ‘Oh I should be here or there’, but I don’t think it’s good to get in that mind set when what’s important is around you. I’ve got friends all over the place in other countries, so I am connected to other places, in terms of what generally is going on in the world. I’m not looking at issues head on, but then again I don’t think you can make work that isn’t influenced by what is going on in the world in some way.

WHAT QUESTION ANNOYS YOU THE MOST? 

When people ask me family questions.

TELL US WHAT YOU’RE WORKING ON THIS YEAR?

My website is my next big project, and i feel like I’m going through a transition this year, it’s the first time I’ve really been sure of what I want.

© Hunger TV

She’s in control: Snapper proves she’s more than just Ian Curtis’ daughter with striking photos around Manchester

If you’ve caught the Metrolink from Piccadilly Station recently you may have seen some striking photographs lighting up the underground stop.

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They are the work of Manchester photographer Natalie Curtis, who is not only famed for her striking photos but as the daughter of legendary Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

Natalie wants to bring ‘a remembered dream of summer’ to the autumn commute to cement her status as queen of the underground.

Sways Stills, a collection of black and white photographs documenting a night in the life of Salford-based Sways Records, are the current exhibits in the light boxes studding the backdrop of the Metro station. Natalie took the photos while staying in a Chorlton flat with friends from the independent record label.

In an interview with MM, Natalie said: “Because the light boxes are in a public place, and in particular somewhere that visitors to Manchester might see, it was important to me that I produced photos that relate to Greater Manchester.

“My starting point was to choose a subject that would give a sense of something that’s happening here.

“I didn’t want the images to be a literal take on events, as I’m interested in fictional versions of reality. Although I’ve worked a lot in colour recently, I went with black and white because, as well as thinking it would be more suited to the installation space, I wanted to create something more dream-like; a remembered dream of summer.”

The Sways Stills exhibition came about when Natalie was approached by creative events agency The Hamilton Project, who manage the light boxes on behalf of Transport for Greater Manchester.

“They’d seen my work and thought it was a good fit,” said Natalie.

She has a close relationship with Sways Records after working with Macclesfield rock band Marion during their brief reunion in 2011 and 2012.

“There was an album launch and exhibition at Kraak, and Sways were in attendance. They recruited me Mormon style and did in fact save me as prior to that I was seriously considering leaving Manchester.”

Despite these previous thoughts of leaving the city, Natalie remains inspired by Manchester and its inhabitants.

“It’s a place that can be whatever you want it to be. It’s open and closed,” she said.

While discussing her style Natalie reflects on the role of photographers. “On the one hand I like to document, yet at the same time I don’t aim to provide a strict representation.

“I like to leave room for the viewer to imagine what may or may not have happened. But that’s the nature of photography generally – it’s a version of the truth.”

She shoots in film, and her camera of choice is a Nikon F100. By scanning the negatives and doing the darkroom stage on a computer, she blends old and new technology.

The 34-year-old photographer has been snapping since she was a kid. “I always took photos for fun growing up,” she told MM.

However it was her enrolment on an Art Foundation course at Macclesfield College that she really embraced the photographic medium, and subsequently studied at Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Art for a BA in photography.

In 2009 Natalie was shortlisted at the Best of Manchester Awards for her intimate photos of bands such as Doves, the Paris Riots and Silversun Pickups, which were displayed at Urbis.

© Judith Hawkins

Viaje con Edu Madina a la cuna de Joy Division

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Si continuamos por esta calle llegamos a Chetham’s Library, donde está la famosa mesa sobre la que Marx y Engels estudiaban y trabajaban juntos. Pero si bajamos por ahí, llegamos a la antigua [discoteca] The Haçienda y a las oficinas de Factory Records. Ya sabes, el sello que publicó todos los discos de Joy Division. ¿Qué camino prefieres tomar?».

Manchester se despierta en pleno invierno a un grado bajo cero. Y a través de un laberinto de edificios de tonos ocres, la gente se mueve con prisa. Una prisa de niebla, de frio y de suelos mojados. Camino por el centro de esta vieja ciudad, epicentro industrial de la Inglaterra de los siglos XIX y XX, acompañado de una joven nacida aquí hace 36 años. Es fotógrafa de profesión. Su nombre es Natalie. Y su apellido, Curtis.

Natalie Curtis nació el 16 de abril de 1979. Tan solo un año y un mes antes de una fecha tan fatídica como icónica, marcada mil veces a fuego en la Historia de la música: el 18 de mayo de 1980. Aquel día, su padre, Ian Curtis, el cantante de uno de los conjuntos musicales más determinantes e influyentes de las últimas décadas se suicidaba en su propia casa de Manchester. Y su banda, Joy Division, firmaba así el final de su andadura y el principio de su mitificación. Cuatro años de vida, un grupo que no produjo mucho más que 25 canciones, que sólo publicó dos discos y que, sin embargo, cambió para siempre el recorrido de la música europea.

El parecido físico que tiene Natalie con Ian Curtis es casi sobrecogedor. Sus rasgos y sus ojos, su mirada y sus gestos, todo en ella recuerda constantemente a su padre. Con un inglés de marcado acento del norte, va narrando el conjunto de lugares, vivencias y nombres que para ella conforman Manchester.

Una ciudad genealógica, memorizada y protagonizada. Un espacio que revive de nuevo sobre un sereno y algo difuso orgullo del inmenso peso cultural de su pasado reciente. En este punto del mapa nació un tipo de sonido -el Manchester sound- y una serie de bandas musicales que ha alcanzado una importancia trascendental a nivel mundial en las últimas décadas: Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, The Charlatans, The Chameleons, Oasis, James, The Stone Roses…

Y las preguntas que nos hacemos muchos desde hace tiempo son siempre las mismas. ¿Por qué aquí?, ¿Por qué esa inmensa concentración de talento? ¿Por qué ha dado Manchester tantos grupos icónicos? ¿Sigue produciendo cosas interesantes hoy en día? Quiero ver cómo explica todo eso Natalie, cómo miran sus ojos, cómo enfoca cada una de esas preguntas y cómo responde. «Estaré encantada de que hablemos y de enseñarte esta ciudad -me dijo-, si quieres podemos recorrerla juntos».

PRIMERA ENTREVISTA

Natalie Curtis ha concedido muy pocas entrevistas a medios británicos. Apenas existe una para The Guardian en el año 2007 cuando se estrenó Control, la película de Anton Corbjin sobre Ian Curtis y Joy Division en la que tanto ella como su madre, Deborah Curtis, se implicaron de lleno.

No hay mucho más. Nunca ha concedido ninguna entrevista a un medio de cualquier otro país. Mientras espero a que llegue, sentado en este pequeño café de una vieja calle de Manchester, todavía me pregunto por qué esta vez aceptó.

Cuando entra por la puerta y se acerca, voy descubriendo a una joven de 36 años llena de energía, que mira fijamente a los ojos, abierta a responder sobre fotografía y sobre música, sobre Manchester y sobre su vida, sobre la ciudad que ella vive y la ciudad que vivió su padre. Descubro a una mujer interesada en España que mientras devora un desayuno inglés, pregunta sobre la vida y la política, la cultura y la música de un país del que, dice, que ya casi nunca hay noticias en los medios británicos.

En un momento levanta la vista del plato, pide otro café y me pregunta si he hecho muchas entrevistas. Nunca a este lado de la grabadora, le digo. «Entonces estamos en una situación muy parecida. Empezamos cuando quieras».

P: ¿Por qué decidiste dedicarte a la fotografía?

R:   Cuando terminé el instituto, empecé a estudiar Filología Inglesa, pero lo dejé a medias. Opté por entrar en un sello discográfico y después en una tienda. No sabía muy bien a qué dedicarme pero siempre supe que el arte me llamaba la atención. Así que me inscribí en un curso de una fundación donde estudié un poco de todo: pintura, diseño, fotografía… Ahí comprendí que quería estudiar fotografía y lo hice en la Universidad. Había estado haciendo fotos desde que tenía cuatro años pero, hasta ese momento, nunca vi que aquello podía ser una profesión.

P: ¿Y cuánto pesa un apellido como el tuyo, Curtis, viviendo en Manchester y dedicándote a un oficio vinculado al arte?

R: Por un lado, pesa. Es cierto que ha podido ser una dificultad añadida. Es como si la gente esperara de mí determinadas cosas. Pero por otro, las fotos que realmente me gusta sacar vienen en cierta medida dadas por mi apellido. Por ejemplo, estoy preparando un libro con fotos de algunos de los actores de Control. Si no fuera por mi padre, nunca hubieran permitido que yo sacara esas fotografías. Así que diría que por un lado es una dificultad y por otro, una oportunidad. A lo largo de mi vida, siempre he tratado de hacerlo bien a partir de una situación tremenda. Y bueno, no todo ha sido malo. También me he encontrado con mucha gente maravillosa que quizá nunca se hubiera cruzado en mi camino.

P: Casi todos los caminos de tu vida se cruzan en un lugar en el que has sido y eres protagonista y testigo de excepción. ¿Con qué foto de Manchester podrías condensar y resumir esta ciudad?

R: Es difícil elegir una sola pero… Recuerdo que hace algunos años tomé una foto en blanco y negro de Lois McDonald, integrante del [grupo de rock] Pins. Estaba junto a algunas personas que han sido muy importantes para mí. Tanto que podría decir que incluso llegaron a cambiar mi vida. Fue en un momento en el que yo peleaba por encontrar mi sitio en Manchester, que nunca ha sido nada fácil. Y de repente, allí estaban todos ellos, haciendo cosas nuevas, sugerentes e interesantes en vez de dedicarse todo el día a recordar el pasado de esta ciudad. Traté de fotografiar eso, así que quizá me quede con la fotografía de esa actitud.

P: Fotografiar una actitud…

R: No sé… Ya sé que es difícil. Trato de sacar fotos de todo lo que pasa alrededor de gente que me resulta interesante. No podría elegir un único concierto, una única noche en un local o una única galería de arte. Para muchos de nosotros Manchester está ahí y en muchas otras cosas a la vez. Una foto que condensara todo eso podría ser una buena imagen de lo que realmente es esta ciudad.

P: ¿Y qué es realmente? ¿Qué papel crees que está jugando Manchester en la escena cultural británica de hoy?

R: Sigue teniendo un papel muy importante. Muchos londinenses no estarán de acuerdo conmigo pero, lo siento, Londres me aburre. Voy mucho y cada vez que voy, me deprime. Creo que tiene muy poca calidad de vida y que es carísima. Conozco a muchos artistas y cantantes que, sencillamente, malviven en Londres. Es obvio que Manchester es menos famosa pero que desde un punto de vista cultural es más importante para el Reino Unido que Londres. Es lo suficientemente grande como para que pasen muchas cosas y lo suficientemente pequeña como para tomárnoslo todo con más calma. Incluso a nosotros mismos.

P: Y hablando de vosotros mismos… Tú naciste el 16 de abril de 1979. Tu infancia y tu juventud transcurrieron en quizá el momento más estelar de esta ciudad. Me encantaría que me contaras tu experiencia.

R: Buf… Todo ha sido extraño. Crecí dentro de una brutal ebullición musical y eso siempre fue así a pesar de que mi padre había muerto. Desde niña conocí a todos los protagonistas de la música en Manchester, estaba al tanto de lo que pasaba en The Haçienda. En fin, un poco extraño todo para una niña… Además, desde que tuve cuatro años mi madre gestionó a medias con su segundo marido un estudio de grabación en nuestra propia casa. No te puedes imaginar el horror que era aquello (risas). Pero bueno, también era muy interesante. Conocí a todos esos músicos en los que estás pensando y a muchos más. El estudio estaba justo debajo de mi habitación así que imagínate. Era imposible traer amigos a jugar y, por supuesto, impensable eso de dormir un poco más los fines de semana porque hasta las maderas del suelo crujían. De alguna manera lo odiaba y a la vez me encantaba. Hoy quizá soy buena observando a la gente por esa etapa en la que me formé no sólo como persona, sino también profesionalmente. Quizá todo aquello hizo que no quisiera tener un trabajo normal.

P: Todo aquello que te rodeó desde niña es probablemente la generación musical más excepcional de las últimas décadas en Europa. De alguna manera, ha marcado a esta ciudad…

R: Ha pesado mucho, sí, sobre todo en los tiempos en los que esta ciudad pasó por una mala racha y no teníamos mucho más que nuestro propio pasado. Pero ahora las cosas vuelven a estar bien. Hay mucha gente moviéndose de nuevo en muchos campos del arte. Así que estamos interesados en lo que fuimos antes, pero no tratamos de imitarlo, sino que nos motiva para intentar nuestro propio camino. Creo que el pasado de Manchester ya no frena o impide su futuro.

P: Más bien debería ser algo que produjera orgullo…

R: Tienes razón. Pero hubo un tiempo en el que estábamos hartos de escuchar lo brillante que había sido nuestro pasado porque, en el fondo, sabíamos que no teníamos nada más. Hoy, estamos haciendo otra vez cosas muy interesantes, así que ya no tenemos ningún problema en volver a sentirnos orgullosos de nuestro pasado. Quizá porque aquel pasado brillante ya no es lo único que tenemos.

P: Una ciudad industrial que, por cierto, tiene un clima horrible. No sabes lo familiar que me resulta…

R: Jajaja… Sí, lo sé. Pero fíjate que creo que eso marca la diferencia. Si tienes un clima de mierda, tiendes a pasar más tiempo de puertas adentro. Eso ha marcado la actitud de esta ciudad. Igual que su historia y su papel en la Revolución Industrial. Quizá por eso Manchester ha sido descrita como la madre de las ciudades modernas.

P: La madre de las ciudades modernas está cambiando a una velocidad enorme…

R: Así es.

P: Y también ha sufrido el terrorismo. Especialmente con aquel brutal atentado del IRA en 1996.

R: Sí, aunque afortunadamente, aquel día no murió nadie.

P: Eso no lo sabía…

R: No, no murió nadie… Pero es cierto que tras aquel atentado la ciudad entró en un enorme proceso de cambio. Recibimos muchos fondos europeos y aquello trajo a su vez inversores a la ciudad. Es impresionante cómo ha ido cambiando el paisaje urbano de Manchester y cómo todo ese proceso ha contribuido a crear una ciudad con una alta calidad de vida. Mucha gente que no puede permitirse vivir en Londres ha venido a vivir a Manchester. Ahora, estás en una ciudad donde puedes escuchar muchos acentos y muchos idiomas. También el español, por cierto…

P: Escuchar parece un verbo apropiado para venir a esta ciudad…

R: Sí, yo creo que es un buen verbo…

P: Si quisiera escuchar la personalidad de Manchester en una única canción… ¿Cuál me recomendarías?

R: Para escuchar las sensaciones de esta ciudad de noche, creo que te recomendaría… Bunkerpop, de Lonelady. ¿La conoces?

Salimos de un pequeño café en Oldham Street, en el corazón de la escena musical y cultural de Manchester. Comienza un recorrido que durará casi todo el día y que nos llevará por los principales edificios, calles y locales de una ciudad que sigue helada. Me propone empezar por el Free Trade Hall, un edificio histórico en el que actuaron los Sex Pistols en su ya mítico concierto de 1976. De público, aquel día, los futuros miembros de Joy Division y el futuro líder de los Smith entre algunos otros. Dicen que la generación de artistas que lo cambiaría casi todo en la música europea de los años 80 tuvo allí su pistoletazo de salida. En un concierto punk. «Se me ocurre que podríamos caminar hacia el centro de la ciudad y nos pasamos por el Free Trade Hall», dice.

P: Me parece perfecto. ¿Sigue siendo un lugar de conciertos?

R: No. Ahora ya es un hotel. Pero el edificio sigue siendo precioso.

Un hotel en el Free Trade Hall. No puedo evitar la imagen mental -donde hubo punks, hoy hay turistas- como fotograma que resume el cambio experimentado por Manchester en estos últimos 40 años. Con esa imagen camino. Hacia el centro de una ciudad preciosa, guiado por la mirada de Natalie Curtis.

Se distingue bien en sus ojos un enfoque de futuro erigido sobre secuelas de viejos días. Sobre el peso de una ausencia. No es difícil pensar que habrá producido en ella un enorme vacío. Un vacío personal, íntimo. El mismo con el que muchos de nosotros, también llenamos un poco el nuestro.

© Eduardo Madina

Natalie Curtis: Fear & Memory

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What happens when one British citizen, decides to give a direct response to the ongoing culture of fear perpetuating throughout our times? M.K is a London born and raised arts curator, photographer and writer (The Hollywood Reporter/Rankin’s Hunger tv/Film 3Sixty: The Times),born to a Pakistani ceramic artist mother, she is doing exactly that – by bringing together the established & emerging artists & documenters of our time from the U.K/U.S/Italy/Israel – Palestine and Pakistan, to discuss not why we should be fearful but why we must all be fearless and united – – – As time evolves and as the layers of history have shown, each era has created its own evolution’s and memories.

However the idea of ‘Fear’ is not just exclusive to the field of socio-political areas, nor as the eligere condition, it is something that each person feels within their own context and nuanced life, no matter where they live – and so I ask our leading cultural figures and emerging artists and documenters to pause and reflect, on their own lives, and if we are able to reach an old age, how will we want to recall our lives and memories and therefore, what exactly does it mean to be fearless?

Natalie Curtis is an emerging conceptual artist and photographer, currently known for her abstract exhibits at Galarie Arnaud in Paris and Recontre Photograhique d’Arles in Arlon Belgium. Both exhibitions include portraits of bands such as Elbow, The Charlatans, Doves and actors Sam Riley, Samantha Morton from the film Control, a rather poignant film for Natalie. If her surname rings a bell it should, she’s the daughter of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.

What are the things that you believe you should be fearless and unapologetic about as an artist of our times?

Natalie Curtis: I think I should not be scared of the kind of work I want to do, it’s difficult because someone is paying you and so you want to fulfill briefs, so it’s finding a way to be yourself and also do the job. The other thing is, recently I’ve been working with people who have given me a lot of freedom, I think that has progressed my work because I’ve been given the freedom to do  whatever I want to do, it has changed everything. So now I think I need to be brave enough to keep on doing things my way, maybe it’s arrogance to think like that, but to hopefully keep meeting like-minded people  who like what I do. It’s so much more fulfilling being given the freedom to do what I want, it’s still within parameters, it doesn’t feel like a job it feels like doing proper  work.

If the aim is to alter or make a difference to people’s thinking about the world or a specific subject, what have you learned so far?

NC: That you have to be honest, having freedom of when to produce work makes it easier to be honest. I never set out to change what people think but if you want people to look at the work and get something from it; I look at the work that means something to me and has changed how I think or has inspired me or has taught me about something, it’s work that was made honestly. The need to earn money can be a trap because you’re trying to earn to buy food and stay warm, but it’s finding the balance but now I have the belief that you can do it your way and still survive.

How do you describe the life you are living now?

NC: Really great actually, better than ever. The quality of my life is really good right now, I’m enjoying living in Manchester, there’re  people from where I grew up that probably say ‘She can’t drive, she doesn’t drink’ but when I have money I spend it on horse riding, I don’t drink but I lead quite  a sociable life. I’m happy with how things are, the fact that one day I could be having a horse riding lesson. So in the last few weeks I’ve assisted on a friends music video shoot, working with people that I’ve worked with before, it’s the brilliant side of the music world, working very hard through the night and the next morning I came home at 7.30 am and the elderly people that saw me, it was like I was doing the walk of shame, walking home at 7.30 am wearing last nights clothes.

What is the current memory you will always want to remember?

NC: I suppose the things that I don’t photograph, it was really great making the visits to Parliament, I tend to forget things once I’ve photographed them, sometimes it’s healthy to not take photographs. It felt like a really good thing to have seen so much of and not photographed it. To just watch something and take it all in, I think it will make my work better, it’ll inform my work in a different way, standing at the dispatch box pretending to be Prime Minister.

 

Ian Curtis Remembered by Joy Division and His Loved Ones in Their Own Words

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Exactly 36 years since Ian Curtis, the frontman of post-punk band Joy Division, committed suicide, music fans are remembering the singer who, despite being all of 23 years at the time of his death in 1980, has forged a lasting legacy.

Born in Lancashire, Curtis pursued his musical dreams, forming Joy Division with Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris in 1976. They released just two albums, Unknown Pleasures, in 1979 and Closer, which was released in July 1980, two months after Curtis’s death.

He had suffered from epilepsy and depression and as Joy Division bassist Peter Hook recalled in a piece written for The Guardian in 2011, Curtis was “very ill” while recording the band’s second and final studio album. He wrote: “There was one horrible occasion where he was missing for two hours in the studio. I went in the toilet and there he was spark out on the floor–he’d had a fit and split his head open on the sink. There were a lot of occasions like that.”

Although it’s been 36 years since he died, Curtis’s surviving bandmates and his widow have been instrumental in keeping  his memory alive. Here is what they’ve said about Curtis in the years since:

Deborah Curtis, widow

Deborah Curtis married Curtis in 1975 when she was just 18 and he was 19. They had one daughter, Natalie. In 1995, 15 years after her husband’s death, Deborah wrote an autobiography about her marriage to Curtis titled Touching From a Distance —a reference to Joy Division’s song “Transmission.”

“No, no I don’t feel angry now,” Deborah said of Curtis’ suicide in 2005. “There’s too much time passed. You have to think about how unhappy he must’ve been and he must have honestly not been able to see a way out or he wouldn’t have done it.”

In 2014, she admitted it hurt to discover the Joy Division song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was written about her and Curtis’s crumbling marriage in his final years. The song’s title was famously inscribed on his gravestone.

“How did I feel when [Joy Division manager] Rob Gretton told me ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was about me? Angry, humiliated. I scoured his manuscripts looking for evidence that it wasn’t so,” she wrote in 2014 memoir So This Is Permanence: Ian Curtis, Joy Division Lyrics and Notebooks (via NME).

Peter Hook, Joy Division bassist

Hook wrote in 2011 that Curtis had attempted suicide twice recording the band’s second album, Closer . Each time he would return to the studio as if nothing had happened. “ We’d ask: ‘Is everything all right, mate?’ and he’d reply: ‘Yeah, fine, let’s carry on.’ As an adult and a father now, I feel guiltier than I ever did then,” he said. “If that had been my son, I’d have gone round there and headbutted Rob Gretton, our manager, and taken him home. But there were doctors, consultants, psychiatrists, and not one of them was able to sort it out. Unbelievable.”

Reflecting on the final body of work those recording sessions produced, Hook said “listening to Closer ” is “heart-rending.” “Ian created a wonderful testimony of how he felt at the time: apprehensive, fearful, but powerful.”

Bernard Sumner, Joy Division guitarist and keyboardist

In his 2014 autobiography Chapter and Verse (via the Independent), Sumner vividly described his disbelief upon hearing about Curtis’s suicide while at a friend’s house in Blackpool. He got a call from the band’s manager, Rob Gretton. “I was just about to launch into what a great day I’d had when I heard him say something about Ian committing suicide. ‘Oh, bloody hell,’ I said. ‘He’s not tried it again, has he?’ The room swam in front of my eyes and I was hit full on by a wave of shock. I said again, ‘What, he’s tried it?’ ‘No’ Rob said. ‘He’s really done it, Bernard. He’s dead. Ian’s dead.’”

Sumner had previously tried to talk Curtis out of committing suicide after an unsuccessful attempt. Walking by some gravestones on the way back from a rehearsal, he said, “‘It’s fucking stupid, Ian. Imagine what it would be like to see your name on one of them. I can’t tell you which way to go in your life, but killing yourself definitely isn’t the answer.’ I was trying to make him see what a waste of a life it would have been if he’d succeeded, but I didn’t get much of a response.”

Annik Honoré, Curtis’s rumored girlfriend

As Curtis’ marriage to Deborah struggled, he was alleged to have had an affair with Belgian journalist and record label boss Annik Honoré. In 2010—four years before her death—Honoré insisted they had a “platonic relationship.”

“It was a completely pure and platonic relationship, very childish, very chaste,” she told Belgian publication Focus Vif (roughly translated to English by Joy Division Bootlegs). “I did not have a sexual relationship with Ian, he was on medication, which rendered it a non-physical relationship. I am so fed up that people question my word or his: people can say whatever they want, but I am the only person to have his letters. One of his letters says that the relationship with his wife Deborah had already finished prior to us meeting each other.