David Corio Appreciation

For my degree I decided to host a photographic exhibition, rather than turn in a dissertation. My photography lecturer Karin Stowe – an inspirational guy and all-round good egg – managed to persuade me, saying that an expo would be much more beneficial to me than 10,000 words no-one will ever read again after submission.

After mulling it over, I eventually settled on photographing the ill-fated UK rap scene. It was small enough to cover easily, and a local venue hosted rap acts such as Jehst and Klashnekoff every two weeks. It was through my research on black music photography, I discovered a little-known photographer called David Corio.

Born in London, 1960, Corio attended the Gloucester College of Art & Design at 16. His first exposure to the world of professional photography was working for the Stiff Records label, snapping on tours that featured stars such as The Blockheads’ Ian Dury and Elvis Costello.

Corio then freelanced for the New Musical Express (NME) and between 1979 and 1984, photographed acts such as Bob Marley and the then unsigned U2. It was at this time that he produced some of his most visually startling work, adapting to the limitations of press and producing stark, yet articulate images.

After leaving N.M.E as an established photographer, Corio has worked for an array of titles including The Face, Mojo, Rolling Stone, The Telegraph and The Guardian. He has held exhibitions at the V&A and the Special Photographer’s Gallery in London, as well as numerous galleries across the globe.

His first book, ‘The Black Chord’ (of which I am a proud owner) is a retrospective look at his photography roughly spanning 20 years. Featuring pretty much every major black artist from the 20th Century, ‘The Black Chord’ is a sumptuous exploration of composition, texture and light and dark. Each photograph has an intrinsically warm and earthy feel that, in my opinion, is largely missing from contemporary photography.

Take this image of Nina Simone, taken for her album ‘Songs Of The Poets’:

Here, Corio has captured the soul singer emerging from darkness, troubled and glistening from her singing efforts. The strong contrast suggests Nina is in two minds; polarised between thoughts and emotions, good and evil. It’s a very powerful image that visualises her melancholy music perfectly.

For this image, Corio has encapsulated LL Cool J’s youthful rebelliousness by positioning himself below and to the side of the rapper, accentuating his muscular stature. The way LL blocks the light is magnificent; a picture that would make Caesar cower.

Recently, he’s turned his attentions to ancient stone; his book ‘megaliths’ captured some of Britain’s most iconic stone monuments and explored the mythology around them. Check that out, as well as some of his other work here

David’s images are stark, bold, burnt and earthy. His passion for Black music and culture is embedded in his technique; manipulating light and texture intelligently and innately. His work as you can see from the following examples, are essays in contrast and composition that are an organic feast for the eyes.


Fela Kuti

Youssou N’Dour

Afrika Bambaataa


Method Man

Al Green

Barrington Levi

Beenie man

Bob Marley



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