While 13th Witness can often be found shooting the streets of Brooklyn, he’s also at home roaming the globe, creating photos and videos for heavy hitters like Drake, Kanye West, John Mayer, and Nike. With the perfect blend of talent, hustle, and grit, 13th Witness reminds us to open our eyes and embrace our surroundings.
Why the name 13th Witness?
When I was trying to figure out what to do with my pictures, and where to put them, the time was 2005, and I needed to create a home or a place to host all of these images. That’s when the idea hit me: "Ok, I should probably create a website"--and I needed a name for it. This is when I was living in Tokyo. At the time, I was living on the 13th floor. Here in the states, and even internationally, buildings usually don't have a 13th floor, so the fact that I lived in the 13th floor was kinda cool. I was trying to come up with names, and Bear Witness was a Dr. Octagon song I really liked. I was really gravitating toward Bear Witness, or something like that. I knew Witness would be a good word, cause I guess it had kinda of like a double meaning. 13 kind of popped up, whether or not you can think of it like I was the witness or the 13th floor witness, or you know what I mean. There were a couple of things going on there so 13th Witness was one of the ideas I narrowed it down to. I ended up buying the domain name 13thWitness.com. But I didn’t really care much for it, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with it, but it just kind of grew on me and it stuck. Over time, I learned to embrace it, and it became me.
"You're always trying to beat your own high score, so to speak so you know…I want to inspire other people."
What inspires your photography?
I guess you can just say I’m inspired by life around me. A lot of inspiration comes from music, friends, family, and places I’ve been to. I think inspiration can come from a lot of different places. There is also motivation from myself to keep pushing and trying to be the best that I can. Having myself as a critic is kind of a good way to keep the fire under my ass and keep myself motivated to keeping doing more and getting better. You're always trying to beat your own high score, so to speak, so I want to inspire other people. Inspiring other people is what inspires me too. It's inspiring knowing I am in a position where people can look up to me, and I get messages daily from people telling me “Oh my god, I love your photography, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have picked up a camera.” I see a lot of people who would say these things and they are doing really well for themselves, so I’m happy that I was able to help people kind of see that if I can do it, anybody can do it. You just have to apply yourself and have the determination to follow through and make your dreams happen.
Through all your travels, what was your favorite place you have ever photographed?
This is a tough one. Shit. You know, I really loved India, I really, really loved India. India had so much potential to shoot so many incredible things, and I wish I had more time there: India is definitely in my top five places. Japan obviously is another incredible one. I also love America. People think of New York and think New York City, but there's the rest of the country. If you have the ability to do a road trip, you really get to see how unbelievably beautiful America is as a country, and that is something I never get bored of: just roaming the country, going on road trips, and just seeing more and more stuff out there. The world is just unbelievable, there are just so many incredible things out there and places to be shooting.
What photography equipment do you currently use?
I use a whole bunch of shit. I have, not really an official sponsorship with Canon, but I have a loose affiliation with Canon in Canada. Occasionally, they send me some stuff, but generally speaking, I purchase most of my equipment myself. I like to buy new cameras here and there, and try out new technology, like drones, but I pretty much just shoot on anything, like a phone, or whatever I have with me is what I will be shooting with. The tech game is just evolving at such an incredible rate that you got new toys coming out all the time, and I really just love trying everything out.
"He’s more of a director and I’m a photographer so I would say c’mon lets go out and shoot."
Tell us about “Watch x Witness.”
It started off just as a friendship between me and my buddy, Jason Goldwatch (music video director). We were hanging out almost every day, and we would go out, 'cause he’s more of a director and I’m a photographer, so I would say "c’mon, let's go out and shoot." What we would do almost every day is jump in my car and pretty much just set out into the city, or wherever we were, and just drive around with no destination and no goals, and just roam around and explore. Our whole motto was "explore everything." We would just be out there exploring shit looking for things to find. Then we decided to kind of start shooting videos and create a little series around these movies, and then we were trying to come up with a name. I'm pretty sure it was Jason who came up with it, but it was Watch & Witness, and we thought to ourselves, man that is such an amazing name, even if we don’t do anything, the name alone is a really good name, the WW (Watch and Witness) just makes sense. That’s kinda how that all started.
What does the next 10 years look like for you?
The next 10 years… that’s a good one. As long as I can keep doing what I love doing and meeting great people along the way and staying healthy and happy. Im not asking for much, like I said, I just want to be healthy and happy and just enjoy this life. Life is short you know, so I'll take what I can get to be honest.