Through The Looking Lens

at 14 Years Old


December 15, 2020 by Jimmy Alvarez
If you’re involved in something you love, no matter what it is, consider yourself very lucky. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that certain truths are more than just a slogan. “Success is not guaranteed” and “failure is not fatal” are two I take to heart, especially working in media. Music is a tough industry, no matter which aspect of it you’re in.
I’ve been working in publishing for some time, and when I came across this story, it literally made me smile. I can’t remember the year exactly, or the venue, or the band… I know I’m light on details…. but, it’s a moment in time I will never forget. This story has everything and nothing to do with that moment.
Fast forward to 2020. After the “summer of bummer,” the holidays are now upon us, and there may be an end in sight of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a vaccine being implemented, we can start to rebuild from the devastation this virus has brought on us. It’s times like these where we see the best of what humans can do for each other.

The music industry has always been there for us, and musicians (especially our favorite bands) have helped us get through our toughest moments – 2020 is no different. One group stands out though: MusiCares. The name in itself is a good indication of how valuable a life asset this group is.
MusiCares was organized in 1989 and incorporated in 1993 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Since then, they’ve developed into a worldwide presence. Their end game is as simple as it gets; they embody that old saying, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
According to the MusiCares website, “MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly influence the health and welfare of the music community.”
Being in media, I get emails, artists bios, and press releases daily. Every once in a while, I get one where I actually know the people involved. This time, the press release information took me back to that day I mentioned at the beginning of this story.

“Los Angeles-based photographer Nicole Lemberg wraps up her 2020 with the release of the limited-edition photo book “No Experience Necessary,” in conjunction with MusiCares.”
The release now had my full attention: “Everyone starts out as a beginner. But when Nicole Lemberg showed up to photograph her first rock show at the age of 14, she didn’t even know how to turn the flash off her camera. “No Experience Necessary” tells a story — in some words, but mostly in photographs — of Nicole’s 10-year career. It pulls back the curtain on what it takes to become a photographer in the industry. And finally, it provides a window into the life of a millennial upstart who had the audacity to follow her passion.


In light of the type of book this is, MusiCares seemed like the obvious choice. They work across the country to ensure the music community has the resources and support it needs.”
I tell everyone music is like a time machine. It has the power to transport us to any moment in our lives, whether it is good, bad, or just a reminder of a time when life was different than it is today. This press release took me back to that memory. As mentioned, I can’t recall the year, venue or band, but I do remember it was Warped Tour and I was with a colleague, Benny Brezarich. We went to the main stage area where we saw the photo area filled with a sea of seasoned photogs lined up. Most of the photogs we knew from years of shooting shows, and there was also an ample number of security guards.

Thanks Kevin Lyman for the memories!

As the lights dimmed, I noticed a look of fear take shape in the eyes of all the security guards. The photogs all looked fearful as well. The reason became clear: the very large crowd behind the security barrier separating the media reps and photogs from being trampled to death by the sea of fans. I still remember this as if it was yesterday, and when Benny said, “Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into a shit-show and this doesn’t go sideways. This barrier looks like it may come down.”

I too had a moment of fear as the band came onstage and the first crowd surfer flew over the barrier. All the reporters and photogs looked at each other, and then we all went to work. Not sure why, but as I looked to my side, I noticed one person who didn’t seem scared at all. I was puzzled to see a teenage girl with a camera bigger than most of her body, ready to shoot the show. I looked at her and she smiled back, looking like a kid in a candy store. I recall asking her if she was OK, she said she was, and then the mayhem began. As expected, the crowd lost its proverbial mind and it was one of the most intense moments I can recall at a concert.
As the crowd became more and more raucous and security was near being overwhelmed, they remarkably stood their ground. Because I’m a dad, I felt it necessary to stand behind this young girl to make sure she didn’t get a boot to the back of her head or crushed by flying crowd surfer. As with most cartoon-crazy crowds, the photo well was cleared out after two songs due to the concern for the safety for the media. As we exited, I recall Benny saying something to the effect of, “Dude, that was as insane as it gets.”  Benny and I kept walking, then the young girl came up to us and said, “Thanks for the company in there.” I asked her what her name was and she answered, “I’m Nicole Lemberg!” I asked how old she was and – I will always remember this – she said, “I’m 14 years old.”
As you can guess, when I received this press release, I was so happy to see it and the parties involved. “No Experience Necessary” is limited to just 150 copies and features 200 pages of music photography. From live concert photos, to intimate film portraits of musicians, to behind-the-scenes experiences of the music industry, this book has something for everyone. Featured artists include: Coldplay, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Demi Lovato, Mumford & Sons, Steve Aoki, Fall Out Boy, Billy Joel, Noah Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, Yungblud, System of a Down, Usher, and more.

The decade went by in a flash and I’m excited to showcase these past 10 years of music photography. I’m even more excited to be partnering with MusiCares, whom will be receiving 100% of the proceeds. They are a big asset to the music community and I’m happy to be able to give back to a scene that has done so much for me.”

Signed and numbered copies of “No Experience Necessary” are available for pre-order.


You can also purchase a limited-edition shirt and book bundle or simply donate as 100% of proceeds are going directly to the MusiCares foundation.

MusiCares continues to do the right thing, especially in today’s unprecedented times. As for me, after that memorable event when we met, I couldn’t be prouder to see the person Nicole has become and how she’s using her talents.
And YES, the live concert photos were all taken by Nicole Lemberg.




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