Rare images of Manchester’s most enigmatic band, captured and curated by Manchester’s most famous visual chronicler. 

If you know Morrissey and the Smiths, if you know Manchester, if you’ve picked up a newspaper or magazine in the last 30 years, then you know the work of Kevin Cummins. The most iconic images of Morrissey are all authored by Cummins: the Edith Sitwell quiff, the gladioli in the back pocket, the shirt unbuttoned to the waist. 

Now the best of these images have been gathered in one lovingly produced box set. The set features rare images of The Smiths and Morrissey through the eyes of a photographer given unique access to music’s most enigmatic characters. From performance shots to quieter, unguarded moments, the images include works that Kevin discovered in his archive years after they were taken, some never published, others developed only once for newsprint. 

When The Smiths emerged from Manchester in 1983, Kevin Cummins was perfectly placed to record the group’s progress. The former art and design student had been photographing bands in his hometown from the late 1970s onwards. He took The Smiths publicity stills, shot countless features for NME and other magazines, tracked their gigs and travelled the world with Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce. 

“What makes these pictures special,” says Kevin, “is the way they show the trust between photographer and subject. When you spend a lot of time with somebody, you can get these candid shots because they get so used to you being around and aren’t posing all the time. At a junket with 10 minutes in a room or in a studio with a brief to fill, they’re quite forced. People have said to me they feel my pictures with Morrissey are quite intimate. He’s used to me, so he’s responding to me, not what I’m holding in my hands.”

Kevin worked with us to choose a set of images that range from the classics to the rarer, surprising finds. The 31 photographs, litho printed on thick card, come in a hand-finished box, made in Manchester.

The box set is available to buy now from the usual Polite stockists and online by clicking here.

All images © Kevin Cummins.