Life & Culture

Magnetic Photos of The Cure in Their 1980s Heyday

Relaxed and light-hearted, Richard Bellia captured The Cure like none other – here, the French photogapher reflects on his encounter with the seminal band

In 1980, Richard Bellia saw a camera lying around at a friend’s party, picked it up and took a photo. It was to be the first of many, and represented a fateful moment that was to define the next four decades of his life. In the summer of that very same year, Bellia saw the British rock band The Cure perform live – another fateful moment – which helped him identify his subject as a photographer: rock music. Now, some 38 years later, a selection of Bellia’s photos of The Cure are going on display at Agnès b on Floral Street, London. Opening on Thursday, these images depict The Cure in a different light to which you might be used to seeing them: they appear – as Bellia notes – light-hearted and relaxed. Here, ahead of the exhibition, the photographer reflects on his encounter with Robert Smith AKA the Godfather of Goth and his bandmates.

“I first saw The Cure in the early 80s, at a festival first and then at a gig. I was right in front of the band, I just forgot one thing: the singer always has his microphone in his mouth, and this doesn’t look good in photography. So, those photos are not very good because of that. But I learnt from my mistake.

“I loved The Cure’s music instantly. It was the time of The Sex Pistols, U2, Simple Minds and Wire, but The Cure were by far the coolest and the most interesting. I still listen to their music and still find it really excellent. 

“At first The Cure didn’t have their photos on the record sleeves, so they were the kind of band that you would like without knowing what they looked like. Even when they were playing on stage they wouldn’t play with much light. So there was always this distance between The Cure and their audience.

“I got the opportunity to photograph them simply by asking. They were a very young band, there were not playing to a large audience, and so it was kind of easy to be in contact with them. Also, right from the beginning, Robert Smith was keeping track of everything and archiving pictures. Whenever I sent them photos, they answered back immediately. Some of my photos are even in their record sleeves.

“The Cure were a bit older than me, and my English was not very good, so I remember trying to impress them. I tried to take my photos very quickly and to make the experience as comfortable for everyone as possible. Robert in particular was incredibly photogenic.

“Coming to this exhibition, I hope people realise that The Cure are very funny people. I have so many photos of them laughing and smiling. So many photos of them are very mean and moody but my photos are sometimes very light-hearted, very relaxed.”

The Cure: Photographs by Richard Belia runs until July 9 at Agnès b, Floral Street, London. Richard’s book An Eye on Music 1980–2016 can be purchased here.