Egg Breaker: Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards starts the day on the right foot.
The Rolling Stones at rest
Ken Regans photography provides a rare glimpse of the iconic band
By Aileen Torres
Preening and parading around for audiences is practically second nature for the Rolling Stones, who are still going strong after four decades and touring again this fall. Ken Regans photographs of the band, currently being shown at Pop International Galleries in Soho, show a quieter side of these iconic rock stars.
The predominately black and white images were taken in the 1970s during the weeks prior to a tour. The band would typically spend over a month rehearsing, writing, and hanging out together in order to prepare for taking their show on the road. One spring, the band rented Andy Warhols house in Montauk for this pre-tour ritual. Regan traveled back and forth from Manhattan to Montauk during the five to six weeks the band spent there.
Among the most striking photos at the exhibit, which runs through September, is one of Keith Richards making breakfast at the Warhol house.
Keith making breakfast. That blew my mind! said Regan. Who would imagine him cooking breakfast for himself?
The scene is so ordinary, it would be easy to mistake Richards for any man on any morning in America. But its the documentary aspect of Regans photography that makes these images so surprising. Other shots of the band members include Mick Jagger walking along the beach, wrapped up in a trench coat, looking very peaceful and pensive.
Ive had so much fun with them [The Rolling Stones] through the years, said Regan, who first began photographing the band in 1972. He swore he would never photograph weddings or babies when he first started taking pictures. But I did Keiths wedding and Keiths first baby! he said with a laugh.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Regan, an athlete and passionate sports fan, actually began his career as a sports photojournalist. Hes photographed several World Series, Super Bowls, and a few Olympics. Regan also counts Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Hank Aaron and Joe Namath among his subjects. An image of Ali in training can be seen at the exhibit.
There was a wider world beyond sports, however, and Regan felt it calling.
I wanted to move on and try something new and meet new people and new environments, said Regan, who has also photographed Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Band, and Bob Dylan. A few pictures from Dylans Rolling Thunder Tour are up at the exhibit and are very worth the trip.
I love going into all these different worlds, he explained. He ventured into a number of realms: fashion, food, even politics. Regan covered student riots throughout the country in the late 60s and eventually became very close with the Kennedys. In fact, after one all-nighter with the Stones, he flew right out to meet Ted Kennedy.
I had to leave first thing the next morning to do a tour with him through the Middle East, said Regan. I came walking out on the tarmac, and Ted said, Oh, my god. You dont even have to tell me what happened. Kennedy took one look at Regan and knew he had been running nonstop with the band.
Regan has achieved such intimacy in his photos because he works to earn the trust of his subjects.
You establish these relationships with people, and they dont mind you taking these photographs, he said. They just allow you there. Unlike the norm nowadays, Regan never had to sign a contract with his subjects in the 70s and 80s. A simple handshake would do, he said.
The Rolling Stones trusted me enormously. Thats a big factor, especially in show business, where people have been burnt by photographers, Regan said, referring to the paparazzi. It makes all these artists pull back and not trust anybody, and thats clearly whats happened now.
The level of intimacy Regan achieved back then is implicit through these images, which connote a sense of ease between the subject and the camera. In these rare portraits of the Rolling Stones, Regan gives viewers real access to the private moments that made up the rock stars lives off stage.