Jonathan Mannion: Through the lens with SA's best hip hop acts

While on his photography world tour, international photographer, Jonathan Mannion, took some time out to shoot some of SA's hottest hip hop stars. 

By  | Jun 22, 2020, 01:46 PM  | Jonathan Mannion  | Top of The

Jonathan mannion

One of hip hop’s most prolific photographers is in the country for a few days on what he calls ‘The Jonathan Mannion World Tour,’ and he has immortalized South Africa’s favourite rappers in a way only he knows how.

After getting his start in 1993, following what can only be described as ‘a serendipitous meeting with iconic photographer Richard Avedon,’ Jonathan Mannion managed to score the full-time position that went on to shape his craft and career.

He has learned a number of invaluable lessons, including setting up the shoot in order to achieve the best shot possible in pre-production as opposed to doing it in post production - a habit carried over from his days working strictly with cameras that worked only on film.

“I love what black and white does, it's sort of like an instant abstraction of reality.”

Jay Z - reasonable doubt
Image by: Jonathan Mannion

Although his 1996 shot of Jay Z (which went on to be the cover of Jay Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’ album) is one of his most iconic, Mannion credits his 1998 DMX photo as the most important image in his early career as far as career development goes. He was so intent on getting the shot that he literally gave DMX the clothes off his back to get the shot (DMX didn’t want to ruin his own jeans).

In addition to capturing hip hop’s greatest acts, Mannion has managed to build a number of life-long friendships with them as he places a high premium on comradery and building relationships with his subjects.

“As a human being, I attach to the human being that is special and that's my job.”

It is this ability to click with nearly everyone that he has come across that has allowed him to connect with our rappers and capture them in ways we have never seen before.

While on his South African tour, sponsored by Hennessy, he will photograph Cassper Nyovest, AKA, Big Star Johnston, Rogue and Riky Rick - who he seems to be a fan of.  

“I'd shoot him every day for the rest of his life because that's how dope he was to work with,” said Mannion about Riky Rick.

Mannion’s views on inspiration and originality are also probably one of the reasons that he and Riky seem to get along so well.

“There's inspiration and then there's just copying sh** and I think that's lazy.”

Mannion’s exhibition titled ‘Beyond the Covers’ will end today and can be found at Thirteen Venue on 73 Juta street, Braamfontein.

Impromptu shoot in the club... always reacting to the moments!! Thank you for allowing me to spend a few seconds with you.

A photo posted by Jonathan Mannion (@jonathanmannion) on

Image Credit: Instagram/JonathanMannion