Jonathan Mannion: Urban Legend
Jonathan Mannion a photographer of up-and-coming urban music superstars talks about his work. He has shot famous people like Big E, Jay-Z, Little Wayne, Cash Money and Ludacris, as well as cultural superstars like, Lance Armstrong, Andre Agassi, Tyra Banks, Lebron James.
Q: When did you start shooting hip-hop and cultural icons and who are some of the stars you’ve photographed?
A: My work dates back to about 1995-1996. Some of the legends that I have shot along the way: Big E, Jay-Z, Little Wayne, Cash Money and Ludacris, as well as cultural superstars like, Lance Armstrong, Andre Agassi, Tyra Banks, Lebron James and maybe a couple of other no-name people. Have you heard of any of those guys? (laughs).
Q: Is there anyone that you have not shot that you would like to shoot?
A: I sort of have a standard answer for that, it’s unachievable, but Tupac, because that would have rounded out the collection and I think I would have had a good time photographing him. Certainly there is a laundry list of people that I would have loved to have spent time with like Bob Marley, but on the list currently, Ben Kingsley, Sade, a couple of the living legends. The really gutsy people that don’t often give photographers a lot of time and access; those are the ones.
Q: Can you talk about what those meant to you and some reflections?
A: I sort of latched on to music really early and I think that was the foundation. Ever since I can remember I could sing every lyric of every song that was ever played on the radio from top 40 to singing opera. I was that insane little weird kid and I think music has always been a driving force for me so when there was an opportunity to grow with the movement and be part of something on a richer and a deeper level and really make significant contributions, I definitely jumped at the opportunity. I was a college DJ so there was a breadth of knowledge that I brought to the table coming to New York. That certainly went in my favor, as I am running around, I could pick the faces and even the faces that weren’t really in the spotlight. “Oh you’re ‘this guy’. Hey can I have a minute? Can I take your picture?” Those people remember when they moved into a higher position it was like, “Now who is that kid? He was great. Let’s get that kid.” It really began very organically, but I was omnipresent when I moved to New York. I would work during the day for Richard Avedon — that was my first job straight out of school. I did a year with him; which was 7 am to 9 pm, come home, have a piece of pizza, because that’s all I could afford and then get right back out and to the clubs with Biggie and Puffy and Total and all of those things. I think being present in those moments allowed me to solidify a position there and for people to become aware of me. It was the talent that allowed it to continue to move forward, and dedication and perseverance and everything else that you need to be successful.
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