13th Witness: Validating Instagram

A photographer, Instagrammer, videographer, traveller and visual artist, Tim McGurr aka 13th Witness has a serious knack for capturing astounding shots of his world through a small iPhone lens. Son of prominent graffiti artist Futura, 13th Witness hasn’t followed in his father’s footsteps but has instead utilized his family history of creativity to create a trail blazing frenzy of followers (around 43000) on one of the most popular snap taking apps, Instagram. Kicking off his career armed with a DSLR in hand, he now prefers to use the iPhone app to spread his visual delights to the world. We yakked it up with the NYC local whose videos have been used by Jordan Brand, New Balance and Lupe Fiasco in Melbourne recently and tells us of how he made a name for himself.

Can you tell us what you do and where you’re based out of?
I’m based out of New York, more specifically Brooklyn, New York. I make videos and I take photographs.

What’s your background?
My mother is French, and my father (Futura) does not know his nationality because he never met his parents, so there’s a little bit of mystery there.

How did you get started into doing videos and photography?
I’ve always been fascinated by film and music a lot, which I use for inspiration. I think at an early age watching movies really inspired me to see the world in a different way visually and when I got older, I moved to Japan and I think as a necessity I started to take pictures to show my friends at home what it was like living abroad. And I guess it just started off from there and one day I picked up an SLR camera and I was in love. And that was it. And I was like, “Wow”, I saw the potential this thing had.

You use Instagram a lot, is that your main medium that you go off of?
It pretty much started off as an experiment, to show people you can take rad photos with just a phone, and still to this day most people won’t even believe they’re iPhone photos, which is a shame. I did it really as an experiment, just to have fun, because at the end of the day if I’m taking pictures, no matter what I’m taking pictures with, I’m still having fun, you know?

Are you trying to send any kind of message with your photos or should the viewers just take it as they see it?
No, there’s no message I’m trying to put out there, I’m just sharing with the world what I see and how I see it, that’s the best way I can put it.

Would you say your dad, Futura, has much influence on how you got into the whole visual side of street art?
Well, he’s a huge inspiration on so many levels for me. He gave me my first digital camera when I was really young, he’s always had that kind of technology available to me at a young age which is good. He’s been a major inspiration for me. He’s my fucking hero, you know?

There are so many people on Instragram, and we’re always overrun with images these days, do you think using that platform makes it hard to stand out?
No, I don’t think so.  A lot of people who are on Instragram should’ve never gotten on Instagram. They should’ve stayed wherever they were, on Facebook, on Twitter, Instragram’s not for everyone and there’s more bad pictures out there than good. So the good ones will rise to the top a lot easier, it’s not hard to know who’s good and who’s bad out there. I also think there’s 2 styles of people out there, there’s people who are consciously trying to take good photos and to make it artful and there’s the people who just do their day-to-day living and take pictures of food, places they’re going, you know that kind of lifestyle photos. So there’s lifestyle Instagram versus the photography style of Instragram. And then there’s the third category, people who don’t know what they want to do with it and they’re just horrible.

Describe a day in the life of you.
It’s pretty simple, I get up, and I immediately start panicking like ,”Oh sh!t, I need to take a picture.” Because I really keep a fire lit under me to keep myself going. There’s nobody telling me that I need to take a picture, it’s all coming from me. I’m my own boss.  I’ve been in this thing for the past few months, where (taking pictures) is like a drug, I need it, I need it, I need my fix. I need to go out and take a picture. And I need my time alone for myself to be able to go through the pictures and edit, it’s a hobby, it’s a job but it’s also one of the funnest things I get to do.

Where can we find your works?
Everything is on my website, my Tumblr, and for people who don’t have Instagram, I publish through Tumblr and Twitter.

For more by 13th Witness, head over to www.13thwitness.com