27 February 2010


Normally, following around a 15-year-old boy for an evening wouldn’t be that exciting – unless the young man is the newest overnight pop sensation, Justin Bieber, playing his first concert at the “World’s Most Famous Arena”, Madison Square Garden.

When I got the call to photograph Bieber, I didn’t have a clue who the young man was. My editor told me that he was a star born and discovered through the magic of YouTube and subsequently R&B artist Usher took Bieber under his wing – so began his transformation into a star.
The concert at The Garden was actually a music festival put on by the NYC radio station Z100 called “Jingle Ball 2009” in which numerous artists, mostly those with the fan base of 12-16 year old girls, performed. Artists included Taylor Swift, John Mayer, Usher, Justin Bieber, Pitbull, Kris Allen, Jay Sean, The Frey, and Ke$ha.
I was tasked to follow along and document the evening with Bieber and his entourage, which consisted of managers, his mother, another young friend, myself, Usher, and a bodyguard. To my astonishment Justin was one of the biggest stars at the venue, with young girls screaming and squealing at any glimpse they were able to steal. (read more plus 100+ pictures...)
Because of the number of performers at this concert, there were numerous dressing rooms for the artists. As I walked down the hallway and passed the other artists’ rooms, it was obvious that Justin’s was the one that all the backstage pass holders wanted to be around, clogging the hallway around the door. I even ran into Harvey Weinstein who brought about 5 young girls backstage to meet Bieber and Usher.
I also ran into Trey Anastasio backstage, lead singer and guitarist for Phish. Though he’s played the venue a number of times, this time he was here with his young daughters in order for them to meet their teen idols. Since I’ve been to nearly a dozen Phish shows, I couldn’t help but strike up a conversation with Trey and snap a photo of us together. (Trey actually lives in my neighborhood and I see him walking his big, white dog from time to time.)
As Justin’s set neared, his management cleared the dressing room so that he and Usher could start warming their voices. I, too, was kicked out, but managed to talk my way back inside because he and Usher’s relationship is exactly what I wanted to share with NY Times readers. They first started dueting Usher’s song “U Got It Bad”, which they were going to perform together later on stage.
Afterward they started warming their voices using traditional vocal exercises, which was also pretty fun to witness. I’d never realized the extent in which pro artists had to warm their voices prior to performing. Being there shooting stills, I wanted to capture what I was witnessing, so I took some video mainly as a way to listen back to the audio. But after watching all the clips I took, my editors at the NY Times thought it’d be fun to share the video with readers.
The walk from the dressing room to the stage was a significant trek that had us passing numerous other artists’ dressing rooms, crew, and fans with backstage passes in the hall trying to steal a glimpse of the stars. Moving quickly and flanked by his entourage and security escorts, it was hard to even notice Justin in the middle as we swooped through the winding hallways. But as we passed, everyone – especially the young girls – took notice and swooned for him calling his name and asking for autographs.
Once truly backstage on the floor of The Garden, Justin and his crew met up for a quick pow-wow and before I knew it John Mayer was coming off the main stage and was shaking hands with Bieber.
As Justin went onstage, I ran to the front and shot from the pit (the area between the stage and the first row). With young girls screaming in my ear and clawing at my back to get to Justin, I continued shooting as Usher came out and performed his song, “You Got It Bad”, together with Bieber.
Before I knew it his set was over and I rushed back around and caught my favorite moment of the evening – when Justin and Usher came off stage together. There was a true moment happening in front of me as Justin looked up at his mentor while walking off stage at his first show in Madison Square Garden.
After Justin’s set, I broke off from his crew and decided to watch and photograph Taylor Swift who closed the festival.
It was an unlikely concert for me to attend, but it proved to be quite an experience!
Congrats Justin on your accomplishments!



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