The stories behind three epic concert shots. With photographer, Jena Ardell. Featuring Foo Fighters & Fuel

My Background:

I can not truly enjoy a concert unless I am behind a camera. Long before iPhones were invented, I used to sneak a 35mm film camera into shows with me. The results were horrendous — I was dodging crowd surfers, flailing arms, and security guards who were instructed to confiscate cameras. Enter: the beloved photo pass. Not only does this golden ticket get me into the show for free, but it prevents people to come between me and the stage. I can finally capture some decent shots without wrestling the crowd!!

My concert photography “career” begins with the Foo Fighters… In 2011, I tipped off LA Weekly about a secret show the band was performing and they let me cover it. When I arrived at the venue (the Roxy in Los Angeles), I was told I could not bring my professional camera inside. I wound up shooting the entire show with my hot pink point-and-shoot camera (that I always kept in my purse) in manual mode. I wrote a short post about the show for LA Weekly’s music blog and included the photos. Rolling Stone contacted me the next morning, asking if they could publish one of the photos in their magazine. It was the first concert I shot for LA Weekly; the first concert I was ever paid to shoot, in general; and the first time I was published in Rolling Stone — and it all happened with a 16 MP Canon Powershot. I couldn’t believe it. The best part: unbeknownst to me, the Foo Fighters were filming the show for their documentary Back and Forth and you can catch a glimpse of me in action at the end of the film. My first step into “real” concert photography had been documented!!

So, naturally, most of my favorite photos involve the Foo Fighters…

Foo Fighters, Firefly Festival, 2014.

I love this image because you get a sense of what it FEELS like to be there — in the spotlight — performing in front of a sea of fans. Dear Foo Fighters, please hire me to become your official photographer. 🙂

Fuel, The Stone Pony, 2017.

I shot this portrait of Fuel on July 29th and it instantly became a favorite shot of mine. After I shot portraits of the band indoors with professional lighting equipment, I followed the band back to The Stone Pony, where I snapped a few impromptu natural light shots by their tour bus before they performed. This fun, unplanned shot wound up being my favorite — thanks to lead singer Brett Scallions whose fun-loving attitude made my job that much easier.

Foo Fighters, Firefly Festival, 2014.

Best concert experience ever: Dave Grohl personally allowed me to shoot from the stage. Two weeks of post festival dust-induced bronchitis was worth this opportunity. This moment occurred after Grohl wandered into the audience during “Monkey Wrench” and someone handed him a beer. The excitement, the calmness, the hands — everything came together for this shot — even the lighting, luckily. When you’re not able to control the lighting, you’re hoping a magical moment like this happens. (This image was published on Rolling Stone’s website in their ‘Festivals 2014: Rolling Stone’s Best Live and Backstage Photos’ slideshow).

~Jena Ardell
Self portrait. (That 35mm film camera I used to sneak into concerts now serves as a photo prop).

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