A Photographer Who Tours with Beyoncé and Lewis Hamilton
Name: Timothy McGurr
Hometown: New York City
Now Lives: In a one-bedroom apartment in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Claim to Fame: Shooting under the alias 13th Witness, Mr. McGurr is a photo-documentarian who works in two contrasting forms: quiet glimpses of urban life (an empty street, a growling dog) and unguarded portraits of music and sports superstars. He was the behind-the-scenes photographer on Beyoncé’s 2016 “Formation” tour and has also been in stadiums with Drake, Kanye West and Neymar, the Brazilian soccer player.
“Intimacy is certainly not just given away to anybody,” Mr. McGurr said. “The more time spent around someone, the more sense you have for who they are, and how to navigate through their spaces.”
Big Break: Although Mr. McGurr is the son of Leonard McGurr (the pioneering graffiti artist known as Futura) he struck out on his own at 18 and traveled to Tokyo with a Canon 5D camera. He stayed for five years, photographing gritty nights out on the town with his roommate, Norifumi Yamamoto, a mixed martial arts fighter. The photos, which Mr. McGurr posted on his website, 13th Witness (he once lived on the 13th floor in Tokyo), found a cult following.
In 2010, a short film he shot of the Japanese skateboarder Iwasaki Shingo caught the attention of the musician John Mayer. After hitting it off over Twitter messages, Mr. McGurr accompanied Mr. Mayer on his “Battle Studies” world tour that year. “One night, John literally brought me out onstage and lifted me up in front of the crowd — a very surreal moment,” he said.
Latest Project For four years, Mr. McGurr has been documenting the fast-paced life of Lewis Hamilton, the champion Formula One driver, going everywhere including the Monaco Grand Prix and, last month, the gorilla jungles of Rwanda. “It feels great to be back from such an incredibly profound trip, but also feeling a bit of culture shock coming from an actual jungle back to my concrete jungle,” he said.
Next Thing Between Grand Prix races, Mr. McGurr is working on a book of his New York City photographs, which will be published by Rizzoli. He’s just not sure when. “Because I have photos from all around the world, it’s been surprisingly difficult for me to just focus on just one place,” he said. In fact, he wonders if his wanderlust is best suited for a career in photojournalism. “Working as a photojournalist is kind of like getting credentials to the world,” he said.
Visual Investigations What is it like to photograph Beyoncé compared with Kanye West? “Beyoncé is a singer and a dancer, so much of her focus is on making sure the performance and choreography is operating at over 100 percent,” he said. With Mr. West, “everything comes down to the tour’s overall aesthetic — the stage design, lighting and setting all have to be really incredible.” Both performers, he added, “have elevated culture on a visual level.”