[Photo Feature] The Iconic Imagery of Hip-Hop Photographer, Jonathan Mannion

Armed with a psychology degree, relentless dedication and lessons learned under Richard Avedon, Jonathan Mannion set out to create some of the most iconic portraits in hip-hop history. After working 14 hour days with Avedon—a veteran in the fashion/portraiture game—Mannion would go to the clubs with unrestricted access to capture hip-hop culture. One of those moments was shooting a relatively unknown rapper by the name of Jay Z.

After a friend at Roc-A-Fella Records relayed the opportunity, he was soon hired to shoot Jay’s first album: Reasonable Doubt. “I told Dame [Dash], ‘I”ll shoot it for $300 less than your lowest bid.’ I was hungry…very passionate. I really felt that with my technical ability, I had a chance to prove to people what I was made of…at least get my vision out there.”

Word association page from an interview with Jonathan.

A single page of word association that stemmed from Jonathan’s interview. Spend some time on this.

Mannion’s body of work now includes over 300 album covers and iconic images of hip hop legends including Notorious BIG, Dr. Dre, Aaliyah, Outkast, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, DMX, Eminem, ODB, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West. His vision, consistency, and ability to innovate has made him the go-to image-maker for the most important projects of their careers.

“I want to do the definitive picture of the person in the moment, I say it all the time and it’s the clearest way that I can describe what I do. Honor the art form. Take pictures that are going to last forever.” A true master of his craft but still considers himself a humble student eager to progress.

Enjoy the select gallery Mannion was kind enough to lend to this feature (above) and then check out more of the man’s work via his website and Instagram.