When it comes to musicians, it’s relatively easy to imagine their start—typically taking place in a garage or a basement and captured on a poorly recorded cassette tape or GarageBand file. Yet it often remains unmentioned and underappreciated that the people documenting these moments of development—the record producers, the music journalists, and the photographers—had to get their foot in the door and establish a career as well.
For Ken Regan, his start as a photographer began when many of the very first rock ‘n roll musicians were making a name for themselves—and he was there to capture it all on film. An exhaustive array of these photos is now available in his coffee table book, All Access: The Rock and Roll Photography of Ken Regan which arrived on store shelves this past October.
Today, TVD begins a five-part series with Ken and his work. You’ll also have an opportunity to win a copy of his book and to view a number of Ken’s photos that weren’t included in All Access.
“I was always an athlete as a kid, playing on the football team, the basketball team, the track team, and I always used to read the sports magazines,” Regan told us. “Whenever I saw interesting photographs of athletes I would tear them out and hang them on my wall, soon covering them up entirely. It was then that my mother took the hint and bought me a camera for my 12th birthday.”
When he reached high school, Ken took every opportunity he could to take more photos, first for his school paper, but soon, after making a few inquiries, he was shooting for much more prominent publications.
“I started working with The New York Sunday Times magazine and Newsweek when I was in high school and when I started getting interested in music, I got hired to do teen magazines, which led to shooting people like Frankie Avalon among a number of others,” Regan said.
Musing on whether or not these teen stars thought it was a little strange that the person photographing them for these nationwide magazines was a high school kid, Ken explained, ”I think they respected the fact that there was this young guy with a major publication—and a respected one—with a high enough level of interest to be there.”
This respect level translated to his superiors, as Regan was able to know when an event was happening that was worth shooting—even when his editors didn’t.
“When I started getting into music and some magazines had begun picking up some of my photographs, I called one of the picture editors at Time magazine and said, ‘There’s this concert this weekend, can I cover it?’ And they said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘Woodstock!’ They told me it wouldn’t be that big, but that Friday night I don’t know how many messages I had on my machine from Time magazine saying, ‘Stay there! Cover it!’ It wasn’t just the music, it was the scene happening there. You couldn’t miss it.”
Documenting Woodstock was just the beginning for Ken. We’ll pick it up tomorrow.