David Corio – Photographer

by Nov 2, 2019Art, Articles

David Corio - Photographer


David Corio was born in London, England, in 1960. He began his professional career in 1978 taking photographs for New Musical Express, followed by The Face, Time Out, and Black Echoes, covering a wide range of music and portraiture. After a stint as a music writer at City Limits, he worked as a freelance photographer for the Daily Telegraph, The Times, Q, Theatre Royal Stratford, and Greensleeves Records, among others.

David’s photographs have been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Photographer’s Gallery,the Hayward Gallery, the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) and the Special Photographers Gallery in London; the Brownwyn Keenan Gallery and the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York; the Tropen Museum in Amsterdam; Number One Gallery in Dublin and in Italy, Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

David has lived and worked in London and New York City, and his work has been published in the New York Times, The Times, the Telegraph, The Face, Rolling Stone, Q and Mojo. He has also worked for the School of Visual Arts, the Swedish Institute, New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers, Greensleeves Records,VP Records, Heartbeat Records, Universal Music Group, EMI and Island Records.

We are honoured to present a selection of his work, handpicked by David himself, with additional notes by the photographer. Most of the photos have never been published anywhere before.

Photos: David Corio
Camera: Nikon F-801 & Nikon FM2 / 35mm film
Website: David Corio
Instagram: @david.corio
Copyright:  2019 – David Corio

Ras Michael in Los Angeles 21 June 1985 by David Corio
Ras Michael | Los Angeles | 21 June 1985

I was in LA at a Burning Spear concert on 21 June 1985 and met a woman who did publicity for Ras Michael. She asked me if I would interview him as I was in town working for Black Echoes. I was leaving the next morning so she suggested I just show up at his door that night. I arrived at about 1 in the morning and Ras Michael opened the door. He was wearing a red yellow and green cape, matching hat and had a similarly coloured live parakeet on his shoulder! Unfortunately I only had black and white film with me. We sat down and the first thing he did was pass me a large chalice which put a stop to my interview pretty much straight away. We did have a good chat about the history of nyahbingi drumming but I had forgotten to turn the tape recorder on and couldn’t remember too much the next day. I developed the film I took a few days later and was pleasantly surprised that most of the shots were in focus. This shot was later used on the reissue of his classic album ‘Kibir-Am-Lak’.

Alton Ellis in Stonebridge Park, Harlesden, London on 11 May 1984 by David Corio
Alton Ellis | London | 11 May 1984

Alton Ellis outside his apartment in Stonebridge Park, Harlesden, London on 11 May 1984. It’s always a pleasure to meet and photograph a musical hero even if it can be intimidating at times. For such a giant in the history of reggae I was surprised how quiet and humble Alton was. He lived in a modest apartment on a tough housing estate in north west London but was obviously revered by all the residents there.

Lee Perry at Ariwa Studios, 31 October 1984 by David Corio
Lee Perry | London | 31 October 1984

Lee Perry was recording at Mad Professor’s Ariwa Studios in south east London on 31 October 1984. It was Halloween and first he posed sitting on a broom then keeping on the theme started singing ‘Chris Blackwell Is A Vampire’ into the mic – a tune he had recorded as ‘Judgement Inna Babylon’ a few years earlier. It is really hard to take a bad shot of Scratch. He makes great faces and poses all the time. This was the last shot I took of him on that night. It was only because I went to get another roll of film out of my bag and realised I only had the one roll of film on me. A daft mistake that doesn’t happen these days in the days of digital photography. Despite people saying Scratch is mad I think he is still actually very sharp and just very eccentric. His body of brilliant work and his longevity speaks for itself.

Augustus Pablo at Greensleeves Records, Brackenbury Road, London 16 September 1986
Augustus Pablo | London | 16 September 1986

I took photos of Augustus Pablo in the offices and pictured here outside Greensleeves Records, on a trading estate on Brackenbury Road, London on 16 September 1986 for Black Echoes. Pablo was making a rare visit to London. This was the first time I had photographed him and I was surprised how slight and frail he was. His voice was so quiet I could barely hear him. Nonetheless he had an amazing aura around him – you really felt you were in the presence of someone very special. He would go from being intensely serious and spiritual to suddenly being light-hearted which I didn’t expect.

Big Youth in an apartment in Paddington, London, UK January 28 1987 by David Corio
Big Youth | London | 28 January 1987

I photographed Big Youth in an apartment in Paddington, London on 28 January 1987. I’m not sure how tall he is but he seemed big all around – both in his physical build and vocally. He has a booming voice and was laughing and joking most of the time I photographed him. His red, gold and green teeth are so distinctive but I liked this shot of him where he is a bit more subdued.

Bunny Wailer in Notting Hill, London 17 August 1988 by David Corio
Bunny Wailer | London | 17 August 1988

Bunny Wailer was another reggae great I was apprehensive about meeting as he had a reputation of sometimes being difficult. I met him at his press officer’s office in Notting Hill on 17 August 1988 and I asked him if we could go outside to a local square. He said he didn’t want to be noticed which wasn’t helped by the fact he was wearing full army camouflage gear and a red gold and green head band and scarf. He was totally pleasant and friendly to photograph and has such a beautiful face and almond eyes. He is another artist who isn’t that large but has a massive presence about him.

Gregory Isaacs at Gloucester Road, London, UK May 25, 1984 by David Corio
Gregory Isaacs | London | 25 May 1984

Gregory Isaacs is another of my all time favourites along with most people I would expect. I photographed him one morning in a dimly-lit apartment on Gloucester Road, London on 25 May 1984. He was extremely laid-back – lounging on a sofa and dozing off to sleep whilst being interviewed. He wasn’t very keen on having photos taken so just told me to snap away while he was talking. Near the end of the interview I asked him if I could get him to open his eyes as he was falling asleep with a cigarette burning between his fingers. Despite it not being a very energetic session (to say the least) I was pleased with a few of the shots from the one roll of film I shot and they have been used on several of his LP covers – ‘IOU’, ‘Dreaming’, ‘Rock On’, ‘The Prime of Gregory Isaacs’ to name a few.

Burning Spear at Kensington Garden Apartments, London, UK (March 18, 1987) by David Corio
Burning Spear | London | 18 March 1987

Here’s Burning Spear at Kensington Garden Apartments, London on 18 March 1987. I’d seen Spear perform many times in concert. His shows are some of the best performances I have ever seen – they feel like you are on a spiritual journey. This was the first time I met him and after we started talking about his early Studio One days and about his thoughts on Marcus Garvey he became very relaxed. I’ve shot him a few more times in the studio and we always have good, deep conversations. The photos become a natural extension of that. I tend to snap while we talk.

Prince Lincoln Thompson  in a Queensgate apartment, London, UK 2 December 1983 by David Corio
Prince Lincoln Thompson | London | 2 December 1983

Another one of my all time favourite singers and composers – the late Prince Lincoln Thompson in an apartment in Queensway, London on 2 December 1983. He was doing an interview to plug his ‘Roots Man Blues’ album. I had got into his music a few years earlier with his ‘True Experience’ and ‘Humanity’ albums. His soaring falsetto and harmonies from the Royal Rasses were so distinctive and I always thought he should have been so much more successful. He ran a fish store in North London which seemed so sad that he couldn’t even make a living from his music. It was a great pleasure to meet him and he was a very humble and devout Rastafarian. I also photographed him singing and playing a small stand up piano – another time when I wish I had a tape recorder with me.

Horace Andy skanking in the snow outside Rough Trade Records, Kings Cross, London, UK 15 March 1985 by David Corio
Horace Andy | London | 15 March 1985

I met Horace Andy at Rough Trade Records’ offices in Kings Cross, London on 15 March 1985 where he was publicising his ‘Elementary’ album. I usually try and use available daylight whenever possible but it was beginning to get dark by the time I had got him to come outside for a few shots. I talked with him about his Studio One days and like Burning Spear and Dennis Brown he was very respectful about Mr Dodd. Although they all complained about barely getting paid for their recordings, they all regarded it as their college to learn from the other singers and musicians who were always around the Brentford Road studio. Horace was very friendly and cheerful and just as I started to take a few photos it started to snow. It didn’t put him off and he started to sing and then skank away in the street!

Puma Jones and Michael Rose of Black Uhuru in Kensington, London UK July 9 1984 by David Corio
Puma Jones & Michael Rose of Black Uhuru | London | 9 July 1984

Sandra ‘Puma’ Jones and Michael Rose in Kensington, London on July 9 1984. Two thirds of the most successful line-up of Black Uhuru – Ducky Simpson had got delayed in Jamaica. It was a pleasure to meet them both. They were in the UK to promote their ‘Anthem’ album – the first reggae album to win a Grammy. By the end of the year Michael Rose had left the band and by 1990 Puma had died of cancer. In some of the photos they had the hardest most intense, threatening stares and in others they are laughing. I’ve photographed Michael Rose many times since. His locks now reach the ground.

Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd outside his Brooklyn record shop and studio 8-19-1992 by David Corio
Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd | Brooklyn, New York | 19 August 1992

Here is Mr Studio One Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd outside his shop and studio on Fulton Street in Brooklyn in New York on 19 August 1992. I had been asked to photograph Coxsone for a magazine but he kept putting me off. In the end I just showed up at his flat above the shop and banged on the door early one morning. He wasn’t at all pleased to see me but after he realised I loved his music and already had a lot of his singles (and also bought some more) he warmed up totally. He eventually invited me back into his small studio at the back of the shop and played me a bunch of never released tunes including Jacob Miller’s recording ‘My Girl Has Left Me’ on the ‘Nanny Goat’ rhythm. He said he was planning on releasing it but never has. One of many still in the Studio One vaults.

Jah Shaka & Norman Grant of The Twinkle Brothers at Albany Empire, Deptford, London, UK February 7 1988 by David Corio
Jah Shaka & Norman Grant | London | 7 February 1988

Here are Jah Shaka & Norman Grant of The Twinkle Brothers taking a break at Albany Empire, Deptford, London on 7 February 1988. I followed Jah Shaka’s heavyweight deep roots sound system through most of the 1980’s seeing him on at least a monthly basis as he played around north London regularly. It is always a spiritual experience seeing him play out and compulsory to stay til the last tune that he normally plays around 6am. Although his sound system is very loud I always feel the bass more quaking in my body. Shaka and Norman Grant are cousins I think. They often play together and after shooting them at this show I gave them a few prints. The following year the photos appeared on the covers of their latest LP’s ‘My Prayer’ and ‘Chant Rastafari’ respectively.

Dennis Brown at A&M Records, King's Road, London April 2 1984 by David Corio
Dennis Brown | London | 2 April 1984

Without a doubt Dennis Brown is my favourite artist and person to photograph. I have been lucky enough to have my photos on about 25 of his albums and compilations over the years. This was the first time I met him pictured at A&M Records, King’s Road, London April 2 1984. He was there with his then manager Castro Brown to publicize ‘The Prophet Rides Again’. He was such a warm and friendly person he immediately felt like an old friend. Over the years I used to bump into him a lot as we both lived quite close in north London and I photographed him about 20 times doing portraits and in concert and in the studio. He always had a smile on his face and his concerts were always a joyous occasion. The last time I photographed him was in my NY studio about 6 months before he died. He arrived with an old acoustic guitar and I asked him to sing some of the songs that he listened to growing up. He played mainly old soul songs for at least 20 minutes. There was no one else there. I wish I had recorded it. I feel very honoured and blessed to have known him.