The non-paparazzo that celebrities really like to see

Celebrities sometimes refer to Kevin Mazur as “my favorite paparazzo”. “I go, ‘I’m not paparazzi!’ “Mazur said the other day. “I’m the guy who gets invited. wanna me to be there. Mazur is the guy you get when, say, you’re the Rolling Stones in 1988 and need someone to document the “Steel Wheels” tour. Or when you’re at the Met Gala and need someone to capture Kim Kardashian at the top of the stairs. At concerts, he slips on stage to film Elton John in close-up. On red carpets, he waltzes past the print media and slams J. Lo from two feet away.

“The trust factor is the most important thing,” he said. “When you respect someone, they will feel comfortable with you. And then they’ll let you in. Mazur, who is sixty-one, with slicked-back silver hair and a heavy Long Island accent (David Bowie imitated him: “Yo, Kev, come ovah heah, take some pic-chahs!”), was heading to Newark driving to the MTV Video Music Awards, which he has been photographing since 1986. He had just left his house adorned with his photos of celebrities (Keef, McCartney) and himself with celebrities (“It’s Sting on my boat”). Mazur lives in Babylon, not far from where he grew up, the son of a firefighter. His first gig was Led Zeppelin—Madison Square Garden, 1977—where he learned to scalp tickets. Shortly after, he took his girlfriend to see Fleetwood Mac and hid his camera in his purse. “Instead of sneaking around booze and getting drunk, I had pictures,” he recalled.

In 1982, after taking audience photos at a Billy Joel concert, he submitted his photos to Retna, the photo agency; a week later, one of them was People. He co-founded WireImage in 2001 and lived through the Paris Hilton boom, before Getty Images acquired the company (and Mazur) in 2007. Starbucks at Daily mail, Mazur maintains access by getting along with everyone. “I’ve never posted a bad picture of anyone,” he said. He was the first to shoot inside Paisley Park (he used to talk basketball with Prince) and the last to shoot Michael Jackson alive. Bob Dylan made one of Mazur’s portraits the cover of “Love and Theft”. This year, his photos of Lady Gaga’s Düsseldorf tour opener have been seen in print and online by more than two billion people. Mazur is a classic rock guy, but his four kids in their twenties keep him up to date with new acts; after seeing Olivia Rodrigo sing a line on “Uptown Girl”, he helped connect her to Billy Joel, and they duet at the Garden.

At the Prudential Center in Newark, Mazur wandered the backstage hallways. On the concert floor, he watched Nicki Minaj and Eminem rehearse. The replacements gave mock acceptance speeches. Mazur zigzagged around the scene, trying to figure out where to park. The Red Hot Chili Peppers wanted a backstage photo with Cheech and Chong: what exit? Just after five o’clock, Mazur checked in with a room of Getty editors on laptops, who were distributing his footage in real time. (He expected to take three to four thousand photos.) “Is anyone on the mat yet?” He asked. “Oh, Lizzo – shit, I have to go.”

“Accidentally flying on stage does not count as ‘doing Shakespeare in the Park’.”

Caricature of Ellis Rosen

On the red carpet, with three cameras hanging from him, Mazur saluted his “photo brother” Jeff Kravitz, a friendly rival. “When we started, we would be the only guys here,” grumbled Kravitz as he stared at the fans. “Now with Instagram, everyone is their own content creator. And you’re also competing with celebrities, who take pictures of themselves. He sighed. “We’re all dinosaurs.”

Mazur was sunnier. “I don’t think I’m a dinosaur,” he said. “Not yet!” The cast of the reality show “The Challenge” has passed. “I have no idea who the fuck they are,” Mazur admitted, but shot them anyway. (Kravitz: “My rule is: Anyone who looks like they’ve spent more than fifteen minutes on what they’re wearing, I’ll shoot them. Everyone’s a schlub.”) Mazur chased after him. “Mayhem!” Mazur was panting. “An amusing chaos.” He turned around, spotted Lil Nas X’s feathered headgear – “Oh shit, what’s that?” – and fled. When Snoop Dogg arrived, he greeted Mazur with a punch.

Then: pandemonium. “Taylor Swift is coming,” Mazur said. She walked past, draped in crystal chains. “Taylor, here first!” Mazur shouted. Swift, who has known him for years, followed instructions. He dragged her on the carpet, a few feet away, while the photographers in the press enclosure snapped from afar. Before ducking backstage, Swift gave her a wave and a “Great to see you!” Mazur delivered his memory card to the Getty table. “I have so many good things,” he told them. “She was giving to me. ♦

About William Moorhead

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