David Corio’s Spotlight on Reggae in London


We caught up with longtime Greensleeves Records and VP Records collaborator David Corio to discuss the release of his new Cafe Royal book ‘Reggae In London’…

Reggae In London – Cafe Royal Book: 

VP: You have photographed so many legendary artists over the years across various genres including many from the world of Reggae. Who was the first Reggae artist you had the opportunity to work with and who was the most memorable?

DC: The first shows I photographed were Misty In Roots in 1978 and Jacob Miller and Inner Circle at The Marquee in London in 1979 which was incredible. Bob Marley at Crystal Palace Bowl in 1980 was memorable as I was chest-deep in the lake with my camera at the front of the stage. The first artists I did proper portraits of were Eastwood & Saint at Greensleeves shop in Shepherd’s Bush in 1981. They looked stylish and were really fun to shoot. Dennis Brown was my favourite to shoot – an incredibly warm and supportive person as well as being a brilliant (my favourite) singer. I got to photograph him on about 20 occasions in portrait sessions and in concerts. The last time I saw him was for the ‘Let Me Be The One’ (VP Records) sleeve. He brought an acoustic guitar along and sang maybe 5 or 6 songs just to me while I took photos. I wish I had recorded it.

VP: The iconic photography publisher Cafe Royal has just released a new book featuring unseen shots of yours, how did you go about selecting the photos from your archives?

DC: I wanted to do a theme so used photos with London locations. Some of my photos have been seen quite a bit over the years so I thought I’d show a few lesser-known ones. It was hard to select which artists to choose as I have been lucky to shoot a lot of great singers, musicians and producers so I included some UK artists like Smiley Culture, Tippa Irie and Janet Kay along with some of the JA greats like Gregory, Horace, Alton, Dennis, Scratch and Pablo and a few who haven’t been photographed so much like Niney, Prince Lincoln Thompson and Fabien Miranda. I could easily do a second edition or similar books with reggae artists in Jamaica and NYC as well.

VP: The book contains a few Greensleeves Records heritage artists, which release from the label has really resonated with you and why?

DC: I’ll have to expand your question. ‘Best Dressed Chicken In Town’ by Dr Alimantado was one of the first reggae albums I ever bought when it came out in 1978 and still ranks as one of my favourites. Likewise Pablo’s ‘Original Rockers’ from 1979. Both are groundbreaking sounds – a DJ at the top of his game chatting over brilliant rhythms and some of Pablo’s best work bringing out magical sounds from his melodica with brilliant musicianship from every player. My photos have appeared on quite a few Greensleeves covers. The first one Frankie Paul and Michael Palmer’s ‘Double Trouble’ has a lot of memories as they were taken in 1984 from my first trip to Jamaica. I’ve worked with sleeve designer Tony McDermott on some of my other favourite sleeves including King Kong’s ‘Trouble Again’, Gregory Isaacs ‘IOU’, Flourgon ‘Count Out’, Shabba Ranks ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Rapping With The Ladies’ and Dennis Brown’s ‘Over Proof’. If I had to choose one single it would have to be The Heptones ‘Love Won’t Come Easy’ with Jacob Miller’s ‘Keep On Knocking’. Brilliant vocals, sublime Augustus Pablo rhythms and King Tubby’s mixing at his best.

VP: Please tell us about your new exhibition ‘Framing The Beat’.

A: It’s a retrospective of my music photos – 45 black and white and colour prints covering reggae, hip hop, rock, jazz and soul currently at Elliott Gallery, Tussen De Borgen 91, Amsterdam (https://elliott.gallery/). It’s on until 6 January 2024. I also have a book ‘The Black Chord’ being republished with over 200 of my photos of black musicians with text by Vivien Goldman coming out later this year. It’s available to pre-order now at:

The Black Chord

https://www.antennebooks.com/product/the-black-chord-the-black-chord-the-black-chord/ in the UK and Europe.

Website: www.davidcorio.com | Instagram: @david.corio