The heavens opened on Wednesday night in Johannesburg, as guests arrived for the opening of international photographer Jonathan Mannion’s exhibition, Beyond the Covers. Sponsored by French cognac brand Hennessy, the event took place at Thirteen in Braamfontein in a rather porous gazebo structure. Fortunately, the rain gave way and the MC for the evening, TV personality Mbali Nkosi, kicked off proceedings. By this time, only the latecomers were dry, in both senses of the word.
Nkosi introduced Mannion as one of the most respected photographers of hip-hop culture. A prolific shooter, he has worked with industry big names such as Jay-Z, Eminem, Rick Ross and the late, great Aaliyah.
As for Hennessy, the brand has become known as much for its joint ventures with avant-garde artists as for its luxury drink.
The man of the moment then took to the mic, describing his 20-year professional connection with hip-hop and its famous as well as up-and-coming proponents.
Calling his shots “very intimate”, Mannion went on to explain that Beyond the Covers consisted of behind-the-scenes portraits of hip-hop artists, with previously unseen images from some of the lensman’s famous photo shoots.
Local hip-hop artists in attendance, such as Da L.E.S, JR and BigStar Johnson, looked star-struck. They must have been fantasising about how they might also one day feature in Mannion’s considerable repertoire. The opening of the exhibition took the form of an ode to hip-hop as various of our deejays went on stage to spin hits dating back to the 1990s. Even those seated weren’t still – they nodded their heads to familiar beats by US stars Dead Prez, the Fugees and The Notorious B.I.G, as well as songs by homegrown talents DJ Ammunition, ProVerb and HHP. Local lensmen were busy snapping away at Mannion, trying to take the perfect shot of the famed photographer. My only gripe was the fake US accents guests were subjected to. It was all good, but at dos like these, things go down better when we keep it real.
MAVERICK Jonathan Mannion