There’s no way to imagine what it must be like to have so many devoted followers waiting for you to say something. But, if you’re Justin Bieber, that’s exactly what he experiences each time he has something he wants to share with his fans on Twitter. All 29 Million of them.
The first time I was assigned to photograph Justin Bieber was in August of 2009. He had become a YouTube sensation, he’d just signed a lucrative record deal, and his first album, My World, was still three months away from release.
At that first shoot, I quickly discovered two things about him. The first was that that he was very young and new to the photo studio environment. Despite his best efforts to give me everything I asked for, he struggled to find comfort and an identity in front of the camera. Still, the pictures had a quality and look that I hadn’t seen since shooting superstar Justin Timberlake several years earlier. The second thing I discovered that day was that Bieber was already an underground superstar himself and that he would likely surpass the success that Justin Timberlake had seen at his apex.
How could I tell? About halfway through the shoot, his manager, Scooter Braun decided to log on to the recently launched Justin Bieber website. When I looked down at the traffic counter, it showed that there were more than 5,000 fans who were also logged onto the site at that moment. When the manager turned the laptop camera around to show Bieber being groomed in the middle of the set, the stream of comments that had just been trickling in to the site suddenly changed to a torrent. The postings were appearing so quickly and from so many viewers that they were nearly unreadable. When the wardrobe stylist casually adjusted Bieber’s scarf, the comments went whizzing by: “Love the scarf!”, “Blue looks great on you!”, and dozens that simply said, “I love you, Justin!”