Calgary

'It's insane': Calgarian makes career of photographing Lady Gaga, Drake and other music stars

Calgarian Jenn Five has a career few may achieve. She photographs top musicians such as Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, Foo Fighters — and Prince, who requested her skills specifically.

When Jenn Five was 'just fresh meat,' Prince requested her to take pictures of his show

Jenn Five heard a rumour Lady Gaga was playing a secret show. She stayed for hours until the superstar went on stage — and secured the only photos of her set. (Jenn Five)

Jenn Five says she's always had a camera.

As a young child, she borrowed her mom's to take photos of friends at school, and as a teen, of musicians at concerts.

Now she has a career few achieve. She photographs top musicians, such as Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, Foo Fighters — and Prince, who requested her skills specifically.

"It's insane. Even when I think about it, I'm just like, that's insane," she told the Calgary Eyeopener. "I was so young. Just fresh meat, I guess, in the photo industry."

Jenn Five was asked to take photos for Prince at one of his shows in London. He died in 2016. (Jenn Five)

Five is a Calgarian and graduated twice from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology: once in the new media production design program and a second time in 2012 with a journalism diploma.

During her journalism practicum, she secured a stint as an assistant to a photographer she admired in London. 

"That's kind of where it started because I started meeting people, not in my hometown, but people in the actual industry," she said.

Jenn Five (flashing the peace sign) recently did a photo shoot with Shawn Mendes. (Jenn Five Instagram)

One of her first assignments was with Damon Albarn of Blur and a then-unknown Ed Sheeran.

"I remember looking at the photographer. We both didn't know who he was," Five said. "I remember the following year, he just blew up."

'Thought it was a joke'

She was about 25 and a year out of school when she received an email asking if she would take photos for Prince at an upcoming show. When the now-deceased megastar was looking for a personal photographer for the concert, her name had been dropped.

"I probably didn't have any really massive band under my belt," she said. "I thought it was a joke."

Jenn Five has taken photos of Marilyn Manson. (Jenn Five)

Five has a knack for getting exclusive shots, as well. She scored a full page in Rolling Stone magazine after she heard on Sept. 9, 2016, that Lady Gaga might do a secret show at a tiny London nightclub.

"I was in my pyjamas," she said. "I'm so tired, and me and my friend were just down the road and we heard this rumour: I think she might show up."

They ran down around 10 p.m., but the star didn't go on stage until about 1:30. By then, all the other photographers had left.

"It was just like so small and intimate, but I was like, I'm just going to take pictures. This is amazing," Five said.

"She's one of my favourite artists, and I ended up being the only photographer that night."

Lady Gaga gave her first performance of Perfect Illusion, a single she had just released for digital download.

In Five's career, she has photographed Dolly Parton, Metallica, Rihanna and Drake.

Her work has been published in Billboard, NME, Kerrang! and DIY, and she's travelled throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada for her gigs. She also does a lot of work in London, where she's often based.

She tells other young photographers to keep up their trade wherever they are.

"Take advantage of the fact that Calgary is a big city but it's not big enough where you can't get access," she said. "Just get to know people and keep shooting."

Listen to more of Jenn Five's experiences as a music photographer:

The Eyeopener's Danielle Nerman meets Calgarian Jenn Five who travels the world to photograph concerts of artists like Rihanna, Metallica, the Foo Fighters and Prince. 6:05

With files from Danielle Nerman and the Calgary Eyeopener.