Legendary photographer Jonathan Mannion is a real G if you subscribe to Lil Wayne‘s logic of real Gs moving in silence like lasagna. Although having been in the game since the early nineties, many don’t recognize the name, but they damn sure know the work. If you’ve ever spent time looking at the photos in Jay Z‘s “Reasonable Doubt,” Kelis‘ debut project “Kaleidoscope,” or Aaliyah‘s final album,  you’ve been peering into the world of Jonathan Mannion.

Now that the Cleveland, Ohio native has cemented his spot as one of the most prolific Hip-Hop documentarians to enter the game, Mannion’s photos are bringing him into the realm of fashion. Jonathan Mannion has partnered with T.I.‘s clothing company AKOO to produce a limited edition collection of t-shirts featuring photographs from his extensive portfolio. Most of the images are stark black and white stills that capture what the AKOO brand represents. (More on that later.)

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The Urban Daily got a chance to speak to the expert lensman and not only did he share how he came to work on a clothing collection with AKOO, he shared some lessons he learned while working under the famed photographer Richard Avedon, and what he’s truly trying to capture when he shoots a subject.

Join us as we bring the man behind the lens into focus.

TUD: Can you tell me a little bit about your t-shirt collection with AKOO?

JM: I’ll go back to the beginning. A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the brand when I was shooting T.I. in Atlanta. It was a double cover for the “T.I. vs TIP” album. He wore this shirt and I asked what it was. He said, “It’s AKOO. A king of one’s self.” I thought it was dope and told him I’d love to get down with the brand.

I tried to weave myself in because I felt there was a strong message behind it. It was just serendipity that I got the call for this during that crazy storm Hurricane Sandy.

After three days of not having a phone or a place to charge it, I started getting antsy. So I went and bought a landline phone and plugged it up at my studio. Eight minutes later I get a call from Ralph Reynolds, AKOO’s founder. He said we should work together and I told him that I’ve always wanted to. He came and saw some images and we ended up with 19 images that I feel really captures their brand.

How do the photos chosen for the shirts represent the AKOO Brand?

Certainly there’s support for individuals with T.I. at the core for the vision. But he’s had some great mentors and is constantly challenging himself more within the industry. I mean, you look at his acting career and that’s taken off. He’s known for that just as much as his music. He’s an essential character that represents a lifestyle. That’s a perfect parallel to the garments that are being created because it is a lifestyle that’s being presented.

It’s bigger than New York. There’s a shot of this green tricked out car I shot down in Kentucky and then there are shots of the Brooklyn Bridge. There are things that were shot in Harlem. There are things that were shot in Memphis. All of the things I shot that are in this collection are all things you might pass by everyday, but there’s a certain soul that I think each of the images have that represents a certain aspect of a lifestyle that we understand. There is struggle. There is overcoming challenges. There is an artistic integrity that we all kinda have. There’s honor to it. And this is the perfect way to collaborate with me because I’m fully a man of integrity and only want to elevate culture. I think we’ve done that successfully.

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