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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

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