#2. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Other works include: The Eminem Show, Devil's Night (D12)
Jonathan Mannion: “Someone from Shady Records actually called me to do The Slim Shady LP, and somehow it fizzled. I don’t know who ended up shooting it. By the time the second album came around, I had been working with Interscope and doing solid work. They thought that it would be a good fit, and they zeroed-in on me.
“They told me the album was going to be called Amsterdam. I thought that was incredible and said, ‘Let’s shoot over there. We could do the Red Light District.’ It was a mutual agreement, because he was already over there. So the timing and everything worked out.
It was all about the authenticity. I could have put him on any steps, and it would have looked kind of cool. The fact that those are his steps makes it important, not only to him and to me, but to the history books.
“They never sent me the album, but I did my own research. At first, I thought, ‘Is he just going to be a character? Is this going to be like, Slim Shady volume two? Or is this going to be another level?’ I realized, they wanted to go more conceptually for this one, and that’s why they’d brought me in to achieve it.
“So I got a tight crew of two people together for the production out in Amsterdam, and my first interaction with him was when he was performing. Somehow, we hit it off. I don’t know if it was the element of being two white guys in the industry, who were really passionate about what they were doing, or if it was a Midwest thing, but somehow it fit.
“We were walking around calling each other Hershey Loc, on some LA-gangster shit. It was hilarious. It wasn’t a parody, because we meant it out of respect. That was the initial connection that allowed a lot of things to happen. He saw what I was made of, and I saw what he was made of.
“He was wild, and he let his guard down. He had a willingness to try anything. I have pictures of him running through the Red Light District, standing in the middle of the street with his pants down. He would always try to push buttons. He did it musically and visually, and I was honored to be a part of him pushing those buttons.
“At the end of the day on one of our shoots, when it came time to do this shot, he was so dedicated to it. He was out there in the freezing cold, in his boxer shorts and a trench-coat. This was one of the two Marshall Mathers covers—the one done in Amsterdam, on these docks.
“He played the part, and that’s when I realized his true ability, even as an actor. I believed it, and all I’m looking for in my work is authenticity. I want you to feel the real person that they are, the real setting, and the concept that we are trying to achieve.
“From there, he said, ‘Hey, man. I have an idea to do one more shot.’ I told him, ‘Let’s do it.’ The fact that he wanted more for himself stood out, because most artists would be like, ‘Man, when are we going to be done?’
“Over the next week or two, they changed the title. They realized they had to make it more about him, and they wanted to develop the three different characters: Eminem, Marshall Mathers and Slim Shady. This was the real introduction to him, as a person.
“So I said, ‘Let’s go to Detroit. We have to go home.’ I shot some amazing pictures there at where he used to work, at the pizza parlor, and of him and his boys. It was an amazing moment that yielded the picture of him on the steps, at his real house.
“It was all about the authenticity. I could have put him on any steps, and it would have looked kind of cool. The fact that those are his steps makes it important, not only to him and to me, but to the history books.”