Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jonathan Mannion: The Eyes Of Hip Hop

To make it in the music industry, you don’t have to be a rapper, singer or producer. Photographer Jonathan Mannion is one of the most important figures in the documentation of hip hop; from Jay-Z album covers to iconic pictures of Biggie Smalls, a new exhibition celebrates his work.

To tie-in with the Tokyo exhibit, Stussy and Lafeyette have teamed up with Jonathan on this cool T, featuring images of Jay-Z, Slick Rick, 50, Rakim and the Notorious BIG. 

G-Shock caught up with Jonathan recently, who filled us in on some of his highlights.


"I did seven covers for Jay, up to the Black Album - we're still good. There's projects we're speaking about even now. I have one million per cent love for Jay Z. Our careers have run parallel. Our relationship has been career defining for me. We made what these images were, we created what they feel like and it's like DJ Quik said, 'The world sees hip-hop through your eyes'. There's a lot of people contributing but some of the significant, defining moments people can see 'Oh what, DMX in the blood? That was you?' and I want those defining photos.  
One of my standout memories is shooting Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album in 1996. I turned up that day with three pages of notes and I was like 'Look, here's what I wanna do…' He had the whole Versace, speedboats, Biggie video thing going on and I didn't want that. I suggested we had to go Mafia, John Gotti, surveillance, sharp suits, swag… he was like 'I'm with it, let's go.' And so began the creation of 'Reasonable Doubt' - that was shot on the roof of my building, by the West Side Highway." 

Biggie To Lance Armstrong:
"I'm grateful to have photos of Biggie, Jam Master J, Left Eye, Aaliyah… I worked with Biggie a handful of times. One time was at the Palladium party when he received his award for Ready To Die going platinum. Jay-Z was in the room, Busta Rhymes was there, Junior Mafia... I somehow weaselled my way onto the stage. I captured one of my most important pictures then because the vibe of that picture really is what that moment felt like. Also, Lance Armstrong is an amazing dude. There's people you just click with. It's like, 'Wow! You're dope! Let's get a beer after this!’ Those are strange moments when you're sitting with like the equivalent of Mohammad Ali of our day. He beat cancer; he's a bad ass. I want to work with people who want to work with me." 

Shoot essentials:
"My three essentials for a shoot are: Firstly an amazing assistant. I really need someone that can make everything move fluidly? Second, always have at least one camera loaded and available at any time. Lastly, I try get a good night's sleep too, but that's not always possible… [laughs]. I keep with me a positive attitude - the same dedication, the same attributes I've always thought make a good photographer. I don't take for granted that there's a hundred people right on my heels. People wanna do what I'm doing - they want my throne [laughs]."

The t-'s drop this Saturday. Check Mr. Mannion's site for more.

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