Artist Interview. Emerzy Corbin. The Male Feminist. By Ronke Lawal

Emerzy Corbin, Black Contemporary Photographers, Black Contemporary Artists

Emerzy Corbin is a British born self-taught photographer who has taken his art to new heights. I have been following his career for many years, and have often shied from becoming one of his subjects for fear that he would see more of me than I see of myself. Like many creatives he is self-assured in his passion for photography and uses his talent to share a message of beauty to the world which is why I have always admired his work. His most recent work will involve seeking the inner goddess of the black woman and previous work has focused on exploring the beauty of the naked female form in an enlightened and empowered way. In a month that is known as “International Women’s Month” I wanted to seek a male voice in the midst of feminist inclusion and how that feeds through into his photography.

Many of your images feature women. What is it about the female form that inspires you?

A good friend of mine insists that if you want your hair done right get a man to do it, and I have noted that several little girls, over a period of time would always prefer daddy to take out their hair.

In a similar way a recent client of mine mentioned that “she took better pictures with her cloths off” and also asked “how did I make her look that amazing as she does not look that way in the mirror”.

I responded by saying I see you for what you are, the beauty in your female form. To sooth her perplexed face I continued to say that I am a man and have a male gaze, I see women as things of beauty ascetically and spiritually. Despite my response being an adequate answer to my clients inquiry, as a photographer it does not give any real scope to what inspires me to undertake the work I do. A lot of it can be attributed to the self-confidence my work gives to a lot of my clients as they proudly post their images on social media sites or print and frame images for bedrooms, living room walls and their hall ways.  I and am inspired by the making people feel good about themselves.

Emerzy Corbin, Black Contemporary Photographers, Black Contemporary Artists

Would you consider yourself to be a feminist?

Wow, now there is a minefield.

As a photographer with a reputation for shooting the nude female form, it pays to read and research feminist text and imagery and I have read my fair share, I especially appreciate the writings of Angela Davis and bell hooks and the pictorial work of Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger.

From the moment you take a picture of the female form, you bring a myriad of associations from others; terms like objectification, misogyny, sexualisation, and pornography can follow you around like a shadow if you let them.

Despite all of this I see feminism as a bit of a moot point, raised in a matriarchal family I have always known women as equals, strong, capable and worthy of my respect.

 How does masculinity shape the art world in your opinion?

The male form has a great influence on modern European art, the term I would use is homoerotic, examples such as Michelangelo’s “David” to perfume campaigns by Jean Paul Gaultier, the reverence in art and fashion for the masculine shape is real clear.

Emerzy Corbin, Black Contemporary Photographers, Black Contemporary Artists

Your latest body of work is a “Celestial” representation of the female form. What was your inspiration behind this?

I shot a set of images for an exhibition entitled introducing the Re- Oshun curated by Janine Francois, the brief was a representation of women as the Goddess, “Celestial”  is my response to that.

How would you define identity and how has your identity influenced your art?

Identity is a sum of parts like a watch, your parents’ and their beliefs, formative years, where you grew up, where you went to school, how many siblings you have, what music you like, the hobbies you have, your sex, religion, achievements etc. etc. combined to make this whole. In my case I believe my identity is what makes me such a stylised photographer, my love of music, comics, and cinema are the pillars of my art.

Your photography clearly presents the essence of Black Erotica. Do you think African and Caribbean communities are able to embrace sexual expression depicted in art?

I think there is a long way to go, as both African and Caribbean communities are very conservative especially in the older generations. I have had my fair share of displeased parents, and partners.  I personally draw a line between depicted the sexuality of the subject in my work and the sexualisation of the subject in my work. The difference is in the posing, framing and context of the imagery, simple put sexual expression is part of any human form but is not its entire construct. The bottom line is I continue to get clients both male and female so there is a market for my work.

Emerzy Corbin, Black Contemporary Photographers, Black Contemporary Artists

Can art be used to assert social change, particularly with regards to sexuality and gender politics?

Yes I hope my work can be present in that change

Which of your pieces do you feel expresses the essence of who you are most accurately?

Erm, all of them, there is a part of me in all my work, the essence of me would take a lifetime.

Do you create based on your own loves and passions or do you keep in mind the desires of others?

It’s a bit of both; you learn to compromise in my line of work, my first book  (Reflex Perfect Imperfection) was very much a compromise in terms of contents.  As I grow I tend to focus on anonymous, child and Facebook friendly imagery, defiantly more about the form then sex. I have clients that prefer more risqué imagery, some of the pictures I haven’t released!

Emerzy Corbin, Black Contemporary Photographers, Black Contemporary Artists

What does it mean to be a man?  

I take better pictures because I’m a male energy I don’t think my work would be the same if I was a female, my eye is different I would like to think less complicated. My viewpoint is that women are equals and I celebrate the models that are gracious enough to pose for me, by honouring my integrity and belief as my father taught me. It is important to be a man, I am one.