This new independent conceptual project from director and photographer Korrie Powell explores what masculinity means to Black men through the portrayal of the protagonist’s mental journey between himself and his reflection. RAGE delves into the prevalent disconnect between Black men and their emotions, and seeks to highlight that masculinity often suppresses Black men’s ability to express them. With emphasis on the complexities of the self, the project aims to engage Black men in a conversation about their mental health and how vulnerability doesn’t equate to weakness, whilst also providing them with the right tools and language to articulate themselves.
To create a cohesive and fully immersive project, Powell wanted to delve into the issue through a multitude of lenses. The 6-minute short film pulls you into the mind of the protagonist, takes you on the journey that he goes through, and provokes you into questioning the relationship between masculinity and vulnerability. Powell collaborated with photographer Jesse Crankson to create a photographic series that expands on the project’s themes by taking the surreal elements of the film and grounding them in reality, Powell asks, how do we view rage in Black inner-city environments?
Q: What are three things you need in your life?
Pen and Notebook
Q: What are two words that describe your philosophy?
Sonder and Balance.
Q: What does masculinity mean to you, and more specifically, what are the nuances of the distinction between Black masculinity and masculinity?
Masculinity to me begins with a process of unlearning. It sounds self-defeating in a way, but the only way to truly understand it is to reject the stereotypical assumptions we have been raised with. For me, to be masculine is to make a conscious effort to understand your flaws, and unlearn the things that we have been conditioned to believe. It also means to celebrate the good qualities that masculinity can bring. I don’t believe masculinity and vulnerability are mutually exclusive, and the same can be said about masculinity and femininity.
To understand Black masculinity, you have to look at masculinity through the lens of Blackness. Existing in the world as a Black man is a completely different experience, the way we see ourselves, and the way we are viewed by others, is way more complex.
Q: How have any of your own experiences of masculinity or mental health informed the way you work and the topics you choose to cover?
I use my art as a journal, so my experiences are an important part of my process; it’s self reflection through a visual lens. It has always been important for me to make the art that I want to see because I think that there is a lack of genuine art that expresses the nuances and complexities of the Black experience.
RAGE is a letter of self reflection. A thorough and introspective examination of the intricacies of the human condition, as experienced through the eyes of a Black man. RAGE doesn’t simply describe pure anger, it’s a culmination of emotions, it is pain and frustration; and an inability to communicate.
I arrived at a point in my life where I looked at the men around me, the older generation of men in my life and in my family, and I realised that we always have our guards up. There is never a moment of displayed vulnerability. Through therapy, I am in a constant process of unlearning, and where they never had the opportunity to express themselves, I have the privilege of doing so through art.
Q: Emotion is a key component in your work. What are your thoughts on stereotypically negative emotions such as rage or anger?
I don’t agree that there are such things as negative or positive emotions, I think that they should all carry the same weight and they are just as valid as each other.
To me, it is important that we learn how to distribute and channel emotions in better ways, whether it be rage or happiness. Understanding my emotions is important to me, and think it’s better to understand them rather than to invalidate them.
Collaborator and photographer Jesse Crankson: “There’s beauty in darkness. It’s real. RAGE enabled us to explore a different take on masculinity, and stray away from the way in which Black people are stereotypically portrayed. There are many interpretations of rage, it’s universal, and means that anyone can grasp some kind of narrative from it that relates to who they are.”
Q: How does the rhetoric surrounding the Black male lived experienced in inner-city environments directly or indirectly affect how they view themselves?
I think this is too complex for me to address in a short answer. The perceived view of Black men living within inner-city environments, especially in London, is toxic and damaging in many ways. How it informs the way we view ourselves is hard to concisely explain, it’s really only something that can be experienced. I try to express this through my art, but in all honesty, it can only truly be understood by Black people. I used RAGE as a way to try and delve into these issues, but there is still a lot more that needs to be explored.
The thing I want people to take away from this project is that at some point we will have to face ourselves, and sometimes we won’t see a positive reflection of us. It may be a reflection that feels distorted, negative or unwanted but we should never try to bury that or those feelings. Instead we should embrace it, become willing to challenge our flaws, unlearn what we need to and to understand it’s not about becoming a perfect version of ourselves but simply just being aware of who we are and loving who that is.
Q: How does your commercial work differ from your personal work? Do you see one as a lower art form or an opportunity for a new form of expression?
My commercial work is something that I use to develop my skills as a director in a commercial setting. What I mean by this is learning how to tell creative, real and engaging stories while still fitting in the messaging and the selling point of the client. When approaching any project, I try to treat it all with the same respect and passion because that’s my duty as a storyteller. It’s easy to think that commercials are lifeless but you have to push yourself and your clients to make sure you’re making something worthwhile. When it comes to my personal work the passion and connection is deeper because my work is often a reflection of myself, so I’m always making sure that I’m being as honest and as raw as possible.
You can watch RAGE here
Edited by Thea Sun