#3. Aaliyah, I Care 4 U (2002)
Jonathan Mannion: “We shot that late in the summer before she passed away. I was wilding out, because I was really excited to shoot her, based on the relationship that I had with Blackground and shooting a lot of their artists.
“I’d wanted to shoot more women, and I felt her vibe, musically. I thought, ‘If everything that everyone says about her is true, I have to work with her.’ I had really fought to put myself in that position to shoot what was actually meant to be only press and publicity shots, for international usage.
I grabbed her hand and walked her to the window and said, ‘You know, it’s not often that I get to do this with someone that I truly admire, and so I did this little firework display for you. I hope you like it.’ She laughed and said I was stupid as hell.
“They told me I had to get ten shots in four hours. I said, ‘No problem.’ That was a challenge, but she was so sweet on set. She was like, ‘I’m riding with you. I know I’ve got to do it, and I know I messed you up.’
“She said that because I was supposed to be shooting in the morning, and then someone else was going to take the afternoon. She was just doing so much press at that moment, because she was really on the verge of being everything. So they flopped the days, and I had to flop all my production, but we rose to the occasion, and she was a trooper. She was beautiful.
“We were shooting in New York, and I remember there were fireworks going off over the Hudson for no reason. It was past the fourth of July, so it was really random. I literally stopped shooting, and I said to her, ‘Hold on one second. I just did something special for you. They’re a little early, but walk with me.’
“I grabbed her hand and walked her to the window and said, ‘You know, it’s not often that I get to do this with someone that I truly admire, and so I did this little firework display for you. I hope you like it.’ She laughed and said I was stupid as hell, but it was just one of those times when you have to give them a break and be human.
“It is a job, and yes, we’re trying to achieve things at the highest level, but I wanted to separate myself as someone that she would work with again. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance. But the fact that I put my heart and soul into these pictures, and they really reflect who she was becoming, is one of the greatest gifts. It could easily put her in the top slot, as far as sentiment, in this top 25.
“She was a total sweetheart. She had a beautiful spirit and was super happy and messing around, but she was certainly professional. Her whole team was on point. We were building a rapport, and had talked about working together again.
“I wanted to shoot her in the Caribbean and had a few concepts I wanted to shoot, based on water and her sitting on the back of a scooter of some Rasta stuff, drinking coconut water. She was maturing and going a little sexier—in a controlled way—with her image, so I wanted to shoot some sexy, feet-up, bikini stuff, also. I wanted to take her there.
“Back then, every time I finished shooting, I would have people sign these Polaroids. We had finished and said bye and thanks, and I was taping these things together, thinking it would take her a minute to pack up, but it didn’t.
“So I literally chased her down the hallway and said, ‘Hey. Can you sign this for me?’ And on the photo, she wrote, ‘I’ll see you in the Caribbean.’
“It hits me every time I see it. Every time I go to the Caribbean—and I’m a huge fan of Caribbean culture—she’s on my mind. It makes you realize how little you should take for granted. If she can go, we can all go, because she was an angel. That’s fact.”