One of the essential job qualifications for being a rock-and-roll superstar is the ability to create an illusion – a larger-than-life, hyperbolic, even phantasmagoric persona that even the fan in the cheapest seats of a stadium show can grab onto and plug into his or her inner fantasies. But knowing that makes the photojournalistic skill of Ken Regan all the more amazing, because he was able to get up close, lie in wait and capture images that showed us glimpses of the humans that we elevated to the status of modern gods.
The Bronx native, who died on Nov. 25 – the location and his age were not reported, though an online records database indicates that he was 72 – left behind scores of candid and/or intimate photos of some of the biggest names in popular music. He covered events ranging from the Beatles’ 1965 tour to the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and 1985′s Live Aid benefit. But perhaps Regan’s most evocative work was this image, which he shot during Bob Dylan‘s Rolling Thunder tour in 1975. It captured one of rock’s most enigmatic performers in mascara and a feathered Stetson, looking like a cross between Sally Bowles and the Sundance Kid, with a hauntingly faraway look in his eyes.
Many of Regan’s best shots were gathered in a 2011 anthology, All Access: The Rock ‘N’ Roll Photography of Ken Regan, which features a preface written by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richard. “Many times I’ve been onstage only to see Ken’s beady left eye drilling through me with that wry grin under his camera and know he’s got the shot he was after,” Richards wrote. “When I see Ken in front of me, I know what he’s waiting for . . . the moment!“
Regan also covered sports – his portrait subjects included Muhammad Ali – and documented Hollywood movie productions such as Silence of the Lambs and Bridges of Madison County.
Here’s a July 2012 AARP video on Regan and his work: