Ken Regan tells the story like this. It’s 1974, he’s on assignment for Time magazine and is photographing Bob Dylan in Chicago. It’s the first time he’s photographed Dylan (who is notoriously private) and doesn’t want to screw it up.
While standing in one of the stage wings he turns his camera on the audience.
“In the second row was this woman, she’s probably in her sixties, gray hair, surrounded by all these teenagers,” says Regan. “And she was standing up and she was clapping and she was cheering and it was such a good photograph because of the contrast between her and all the kids.”
The same woman is in the audience the next night so Regan mentions it to his friend Bill Graham, the famous music promoter, who originally got him in the door with Dylan. Graham immediately tells Regan he can never use the photos. Turns out the older woman is Dylan’s mom, and Graham knows Dylan doesn’t want those photos published.
Time magazine runs three pages of photos but Regan never lets on about Dylan’s mom.
Fast forward to 1975. It’s 2 a.m. and Regan gets a call from Bob Dylan and his promoters. They’re excitedly putting together a plan for Dylan’s upcoming Rolling Thunder tour. Dylan had found out about the photos of his mom and knows he can trust Regan. He wants Regan on the tour and tells him he’ll have full and unprecedented access.
Regan ends up following the entire tour and comes back with 13,750 frames, including several of the most intimate and personal photos ever made of Dylan.
“I’m saying to myself this is like a dream, having this access to Bob Dylan which no one has really had before,” Regan says. “He kind of came out of his reclusive shell on the whole tour.”
The story is just one of many Regan can recount after more than five decades of photographing the world’s most famous rock musicians. He’s got photos of, and anecdotes about, everyone from the Rolling Stones to Madonna and for the first time has published them all in one place — his aptly titled music anthology, All Access.
The book, which is nearly three hundred pages long, is an exhaustive look at one of the world’s most important recent cultural movements, and provides proof of what happens when you spend years developing relationships with people who are notorious for hiding their personal lives.
The edit features your standard shots of Jimmy Hendrix breaking his guitar or Janis Joplin screaming into a microphone. But there are also shots like the one he captured of Dylan and beat poet Allen Ginsberg sitting at Jack Kerouac’s grave during the Rolling Thunder tour. Or the photo of Mick Jagger laying on the floor, talking on the phone in 1972, and Keith Richards holding his first daughter, Theodora, in 1985 — pictures that reveal a more human side of these superstars.
“I was so appreciative of all the friendships and all the access,” Regan says. “These people put a lot of trust in me.”
The majority of the book covers the 1960s, 70s and 80s. There are photos from as recently at 2010, but it’s clear Regan has moved on photographically. Nowadays, he said most of his work is outside music.
Regan’s relationships with the musicians, however, live on. Keith Richards wrote the book’s preface, where he claims, “To capture a ‘moment’ you need something else. You have to know the moment before it happens. To sense it, to feel it … Maybe like hearing a song before it has been written. Whatever this intuitive sense, is what my longtime friend has.”
Following the preface is an introduction written by Mick Jagger. Reading theses texts you get the feeling Regan didn’t have to call in any favors for the book, but instead simply made a phone call to friends who he developed after years of building trust and making photographs.
To drive that point home, Regan closes the book with an afterward by James Taylor. There, Taylor writes about Regan photographing him and his family, calling back the episode of Bob Dylan and his mom.
“Aside from being a superb photographer, he is the sort of man you can trust to take pictures of your family and not have to worry that they will show up in the wrong place,” Taylor writes. “The photographs he takes are honest because we trust him; we can be ourselves around him. He is one of us.”