It's All Love with Jonathan Mannion and Viacom
When Viacom approached Jonathan Mannion to help them with their latest campaign they were really looking for a partner. They had the beginning of an idea, but wanted his input to send it over the top. “They asked, ‘What would you do if we identified the North Star as the fans?’ And I came back with an idea that was, ‘The Circle of Fandom’,” explains Jonathan. In his concept, all fandom is essentially a cycle. The example that he uses is the singer Brandy. Brandy is on BET where she does her things, and her fans watch her because they love her. But she also loves her fans, and loves being a part of BET. And obviously BET loves it all. It becomes an ever moving circle of love and support, creating a community through fandom, and that’s what Jonathan was pursuing in this campaign. “The circular nature of it all coming together was at the core of what we wanted to do,” he says.
There are thousands of fandoms all over the world of people connecting over their shared loves, whether it’s television like at Viacom, or any number of other hobbies. To capture even a tiny slice of the fandoms that touch what Viacom does at BET, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, it was going to require a monumental undertaking, something that Jonathan doesn’t balk at even a little. But it did mean some packed days. “One day I shot three amazing, beautiful drag queens, Brandy, and then a four year old and his mother,” says Jonathan. “That was my eight-hour chunk of shooting for that day. My ability to react so purely and authentically to the talent that I shoot really allowed for all the images that we created to be so meticulously considered in their final execution.” It’s not enough to merely show up for the shoots, a photographer has to react and be present in every moment, no matter what’s happening on their set. Jonathan rolled with every thing that presented itself and that allowed him to capture moments that might be missed by someone else who isn’t as ready for anything.
Part of the way Jonathan is able to get the images that he does while staying as engaged as he does, is by getting down to the core of what makes his subjects tick and engage with them on a personal, human level. “It’s always about the communication and the rich dialogue that allows us to yield imagery that feels real,” Jonathan explains. “I never want anything that I create to feel stale or gimmicky. So it was pushing people to belt out lyrics at the top of their lungs, and making them laugh, taking them a little bit further than they thought they would go that day.” When Jonathan finds something that surprises him he delivers that straight to us so we can be surprised in exactly the same way.