#15. Beenie Man, Art And Life (2000)
Other works include: Back To Basics, Undisputed
Jonathan Mannion: “I had been a very big fan of Beenie Man for a long time. I brought my portfolio down to show him some stuff, and he was like, ‘Man, I know your work. I can pick out your pictures. You did the most recent spread in Vibe, and you did Chico DeBarge in The Source.’ That bugged me out, because this was an artist that I had loved since the onset of my love for reggae.
“I stayed at Strawberry Hill, which is owned by Chris Blackwell and was a place where Bob Marley spent a lot of time writing and thinking. I was in paradise, listening to Kaya and laying on my bed with the breeze blowing through the mosquito nets. It was really my first experience in Kingston to create.
Beenie said to me, ‘You’re untouchable. You’re like teflon. You can do anything you want. Shoot anybody you want.’ The fact that he gave me such access and sort of a free pass to do anything was all that I could ask for.
“There was a lot of research that went into the shoot, based on old images of what I wanted to resurrect and recreate. But a lot of it was just reacting and seeing what people were doing.
“He asked me what we were going to do, and I told him, ‘I want you to take me to where you want to go.’ So he took me to Craig Town, which not a lot of people get access to.
“We set up a bunch of shots there, and he said to me, ‘You’re untouchable. You’re like teflon. You can do anything you want. Shoot anybody you want.’ The fact that he gave me such access and sort of a free pass to do anything was all that I could ask for, and I rose to the occasion because of my love for the place.
“Visually, that grit was exactly where I was. It was like ghetto elegance. There was such beauty in corrugated steel. That’s how I saw it, and I loved it.
“That passage of time in history, and the fact that it was an artist that I respected, who gave me access and believed in me, was like the stars aligned.”