“You respect everybody, and they respect you back.”

Before I ended up backstage at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, running memory cards for the best photographers and editors in show business, renowned Getty Images entertainment photojournalist Larry Busacca gave me some words of advice:

  1. Know your route;
  2. Walk like you own the place;
  3. Kevin Mazur knows everybody. If he’s standing around backstage, take a step back and watch what’s happening. He’s probably waiting for the right moment to photograph someone great.

Busacca should know. Longtime colleagues and friends, he and Mazur have worked together for nearly 30 years, shooting everyone who is anyone in the world of entertainment. Additionally, Mazur has covered every Global Citizen Festival since its inception in Central Park in 2012 – so if anyone understands the event’s dynamics and how and where to capture the best celebrity moments, it’s him.

“Everybody knows Kevin,” Getty Images Co-founder Jonathan Klein told me the day before the event. “And they all love him. You’ll see.”

Upon entering the venue, it took only 5 minutes to see that Klein wasn’t exaggerating. Mazur was magnetic, with everyone from publicists to boom operators to Sting’s manager coming over to give him a handshake, a “How are ya, babe” or a familial squeeze and side-to-side rock, like Susan Sarandon did.

 

Getty Images Entertainment Photographer Kevin Mazur shoots Susan Sarandon backstage at the 2015 Global Citizens Festival to end extreme poverty. (Photo by Maria Dal Pan Dias)
Getty Images Entertainment Photographer Kevin Mazur shoots Susan Sarandon backstage at the 2015 Global Citizens Festival to end extreme poverty. (Photo by Maria Dal Pan Dias)

 

After some warm words, Mazur snapped a few photos of Sarandon and pal Salma Hayak Pinault, then flitted off like a firefly — flying, pausing, flying again, shining his inner light, photographing the next celebrity. Throughout the event there were many: Beyoncè, Michelle Obama, Eddie Vedder, Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio, Katie Holmes … all people Mazur has photographed before. Each seemed happy for him to shoot them again.

“It’s respect,” Mazur said, when he had a moment to breathe. “You respect everybody and they respect you back.”

 

Getty Images Entertainment Photographer Kevin Mazur and Getty Images Account Manager David Pomponio prepare for the 2015 Global Citizen Festival and discuss where Mazur will be positioned on stage for the event. (Photo by Maria Dal Pan Dias/Getty Images)
Getty Images Entertainment Photographer Kevin Mazur and Getty Images Account Manager David Pomponio prepare for the 2015 Global Citizen Festival and discuss where Mazur will be positioned on stage for the event. (Photo by Maria Dal Pan Dias/Getty Images)

 

The evening’s pace was frenetic. While Mazur worked from his positions on stage, in the pit in front of it and behind the scenes, a wider team of Getty Images photographers and videographers covered the event from other vantage points, capturing moments both on stage and off.

“It’s never ending, nonstop,” said Noam Galai, who was busy making portraits of heads of state, actors and musicians in a VIP tent behind the stage. “I just photographed the First Lady of Panama followed by Kerry Washington … you never know who you’re going to get.”

Running Galai’s cards, I ran into a few celebrities myself, observing as swarms of security ushered around Malala Yousafzai, Mark Zuckerberg and US Vice President Joseph Biden. DiCaprio grabbed a bite to eat next to the Getty Images editing crew, and Bill Gates took a moment to say hello to some admirers and colleagues. Crossing between the stage, the greenrooms and the VIP lounges, it was anyone’s guess who might walk through next.

 

 

Getty Images photographers – including Theo Wargo and Mike Coppola — snapped away while editors hustled to get this content in the hands of global media at breakneck speed.

The concert was a cultural moment worth documenting. Artists and activists came together in the name of advocacy, using the festival as a means to achieve policy and financial commitments that will shape the success of the UN’s Global Goals over the next 15 years, fighting extreme poverty and climate change while championing public health and education. Every image from the festival was an opportunity to spread awareness of these issues far and wide, especially as pictures have become the language of our time.

Knowing this, I held tight to the memory cards, weaving through a kaleidoscope of handlers, fans and security guards. Meanwhile, Busacca’s words rang in my head:

“Remember, you are carrying gold,” he said. “You are carrying a brick of solid gold.”

He was right.

See our Getty Images best-of gallery for more images from the 2015 Global Citizen Festival