Jack Mannix’s Precious Metals

jack mannix

Oliver Heath talks candidly about his friendship with Australian photographer, Jack Mannix: 

My friend, Jack Mannix has his first solo photography exhibition titled ‘Precious Metals’  opening this week. I had the pleasure of shooting a video as part of his campaign to raise $6k to publish an accompanying photography book. The book is full of bright young lovers and future underground deities, blazing torches and smouldering snubs. Perfect for any part-time degenerate’s coffee table.

This isn’t the first time Jack has been mentioned on this site. Marta Jary’s interview with him generated enough controversy that comments eventually dissolved into utter chaos and had to be disabled. No matter, I’d expect nothing less from a man of Jack’s flair. His candid disclosure was seen by detractors as glorifying the drugs and prostitution that had consumed a recent chapter of his life. I can’t claim objectivity because I’ve known Jack since he was 15, but his account only ever seemed to me like a cautionary tale. I’ll explain my perspective.

Jack’s been talented and driven as long as I’ve known him – well except perhaps for the time he was wholly caught up on drugs. Before this, although underage, he was already blagging his way into clubs to photograph bands and play casiotone keyboard on stage. In contrast, when wasted he’d wind up reeking like a colostomy bag and dazed in my hammock. Each time I saw him I’d hope for some sign he kicked the habit.

He once sold me a pair of sneakers for $40. It turned out another mate had given him them so that he looked less of a disgrace. I don’t see the glamour in selling your shoes, I don’t see how you could construe any of this as glamourising a gutter lifestyle. I was torn about buying them, knowing where the money would be going. I decided that I’d prefer him to be doing a legit transaction with me rather than some of the alternatives…

The desperate need for money combined with a decreased ability/desire to earn in the ways that most of us do puts the addict under constant suspicion. It made me sad, and I don’t (want to) know if it was justified, but I eventually found myself suspicious of Jack. I raised the possibility with friends after some stuff went missing that Jack was culprit, but the idea was wholly rejected. We’re lucky to have such loyal friends, Jack. But you’re better at remembering friends than I am anyway so I don’t need to tell you. Sorry if my suspicion was misplaced, or if you ever felt unwelcome, but I am a pragmatic fucker at times.

By accident, or design, Jack moved to Melbourne and many of his more sordid tales seem to originate from there or elsewhere on the road. The move saved some of those that had known him longest the full impact of seeing him on the street. When I read the gory details of fallen glory… holes, it reads to me like the confession of someone trying to put things back together. I can’t imagine anyone reading it and thinking ‘hey if I take lots of drugs, burn bridges and become a street prostitute it might help my art’ – I don’t believe it helped his. Wise up. I love Jack’s prose, but he’d be writing well without this chapter of his life.

Jack returning to photography represents a return to his first art, to me it’s him reaching back to himself before this fall, to make sure he stays on the rails. It’s a rebirth and it makes me excited for my mate and his future work.

You can check out the campaign here: http://www.pozible.com/project/178109. Head along to the  ‘Precious Metals’ opening Friday 28th March at Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography. 

oliver heath


Words by Oliver Heath