Above: PRINCE “It’s definitely one of my favourites. Prince liked this one, too. It was taken during a 12-minute version of Purple Rain! I was waiting for the confetti to blow. I’mjust lucky it wasn’t obscuring him. If I had been in front of the microphone it would have been a different story. A lot of people would have shot it vertically, with him in the centre, and that’s okay. But I like the negative space and I think that’s what sets me apart from other photographers.”
Combining her obsession with music and her love of taking pictures , Jenn Five (New Media, Production and Design ’06, Journalism ’12) has built an international career photographing some of music ’s biggest names for magazines like Billboard, Rolling Stone and NME. When she’s not travelling, Jenn lives in Calgary or London, England, where she spoke with LINK writer Eric Rosenbaum by phone.
JF: There’s not really an explanation. It was just a nickname and it took. It’s my name.
JF: Calgary, but the world is my oyster.
JF: I have always been a music-head. The first concert I went to, I think I was eight years old. I begged my parents to take me to see Alanis Morissette. She was the first rock girl I liked. Before that it was Madonna, then Alanis came out with Jagged Little Pill and it was a whole different can of worms. All the money I’d get for allowance I’d spend on CDs or cassette tapes and I’d blow my money on concerts.
JF: When I was a teen and old enough to go to concerts by myself, I remember taking my mom’s 35-mm film camera. I would wait at the concert venue all day so I could be in the front row. I’d take the pictures just for me. I didn’t have any thought to selling them. I remember taking film to Walmart for developing and the girl behind the counter — who was probably a couple years older than me — said, “Are you the one with the Avril Lavigne photos? They’re so rad.” That was cool stuff to hear.
JF: I enrolled in the New Media program first. I graduated and got a really amazing job, but I wasn’t really happy. I decided to go back to study journalism. I actually wanted to be a rock writer; I wanted to be Lester Bangs (who wrote for Rolling Stone and Creem). Then, at some point, I thought, ‘You know what would be better than writing about rock stars? Photographing rock stars.’ And I thought, ‘I’d be really good at that.’
JF: Prince. When his team approached me, I was in Amsterdam on holiday. It was 2014. His team was looking for a photographer and they were asking around for recommendations. I’ve heard that my name was recommended twice and so they checked out my stuff. I remember getting the email and thinking it was a joke because, three days before, I had tweeted that my holiday plans meant I was going to miss a Prince show. Before Prince, most of my work was with underground bands.
JF: I love both, but I started off doing live photography so that will always be exciting to me. You don’t know what the lighting is going to be like. You truly don’t know what you’re going to do. That’s super fun for me. It can be challenging. You just try to make do with what you have. You just have to know your camera really well and to change your settings without really thinking.
JF: My Mark III camera (Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR) and my reflector. My reflector goes everywhere with me. It’s particularly useful for on-the-go portraits.
JF: Prince. Shooting his show for the very first time, and I hadn’t ever seen him live — that was a trip. And then meeting him was a trip. I was never more excited than going through my photos with him after a show.
JF: Lady Gaga. I have shot her before but I want to do her portrait because it would be her vision, she’d bounce that off me, and then we’d get something amazing.
JF: It gives you a reason to push yourself more and to create something a little bit different. Anybody can pick up a camera and do stuff. I’ve seen bands re-post iPhone photos and I think, ‘Okay, that’s a good shot.’ And I just have to push myself harder.
JF: Don’t stop shooting. Keep shooting shows. Get to know the local bands and the people who work at your local venues. Get to know security, get to know promoters. People are going to know your name. They’re going to trust you and they’ll give you extra access. Also, be nice to people. You never know when you’re talking to somebody who could help you or could be influential.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.