Photography By: Imani McIntyre



Hip-hop wasn’t always flashy personas and huge chains. Before any rapper could obtain “star status” he or she, like hip-hop itself, had a beginning. Whether that beginning was created by five Hot Boyz in the New Orleans housing projects of Hollygrove, or started with a Southernplayalistic twang, photographer Jonathan Mannion and his trusty Polaroid camera were there to capture it frame by frame.

Interestingly enough, hip-hop and the Polaroid picture have a sacred, little known relationship. Before the era of the digital camera, there was the Polaroid, a camera that developed its own images about two minutes after the shutter clicked. Before Polaroid discontinued 2008, it once served as the only means by which a photographer could proof images while on set, as stated in the exhibit’s center display.

Mannion’s showcase, Rough Around the Edges: The 665 Polaroid Work of Jonathan Mannion, opened Tuesday, June 18 at Milk Studios in New York City. Mannion brilliantly displayed the come up of some of hip-hop’s heavyweights by capturing them in the earliest stages of their careers. Stills of Killer Mike washing his Cadillac, Left Eye draped in leather, Jay-Z posing for his debut album Reasonable Doubt, Snoop Dogg with barrettes at the ends of his braids, a young Drizzy, and Diddy on the switchboard were put on display.

In addition to the rap game, which the Ohio native broke into in 1996, Mannion also acknowledged sub elements of the hip-hop culture, such the video vixen, comedy legend Bernie Mac, reggae icon Beanie Man, and R&B artists like Usher.

As the DJ dropped an energetic mix of hip-hop music, Milk quickly filled with hip-hop executives, photographers, and artists such as UGK legend Bun B, all of who came to view 50 of Mannion’s most breathtaking black and whites.

“I think any great shooter evolves with the culture that he or she loves,” said Mannion to XXL. “I feel like I have a reason to deal with everybody that I shoot, whether it’s A$AP Rocky or whether it’s Jay-Z, there’s always a dialogue that happens. It doesn’t matter the evolution of hip-hop, its about you as a photographer, how you connect to the subject, and make meaningful pictures.”

In less than two weeks time, Mannion will be off to France for Quai Hennessey Presents: Beyond the Covers another 50 image collection of his works.

Rough Around the Edges will be on display until July 7.—Imani McIntyre