Muhammad Ali-George Foreman-1974-Sports Illustrated Cover-Ken Regan-Camera 5-Sports Illustrated-Getty Images-006273038

Remembering Ken Regan ‘always making it happen’

November 27, 2012 | By Elodie Mailliet Storm | Community, Friends, Our artists, Photography, Photojournalism

(Updated 11/28/2012)

Photographer Ken Regan passed away this week, and we are sad at the loss of not only such an incredible photographer and person – but also a friend.

At Getty Images, we had the great privilege of knowing Ken and representing his work.

Ken’s  incredibly vivacious personality and gentle spirit quickly built deep friendships, and he had countless stories to tell of his many years on the road. But Ken could also listen to others like no one else. He could count among his close friends many of his subjects including Ted Kennedy, Clint Eastwood, Bob Dylan, Jonathan Demme and Mick Jagger.

Ken was one of the very few photographers whose 40-plus year career explored every aspect and genre of photography successfully: from sports and news photography to political and music documentary, to portraiture and on-set photography.

He could do it all, and with bravado, capturing very special moments in history.

Muhammad Ali-George Foreman-1974-Sports Illustrated Cover-Ken Regan-Camera 5-Sports Illustrated-Getty Images-006273038

November 11, 1974 Sports Illustrated Cover: Boxing: WBA/WBC Heavyweight Title: Muhammad Ali (R) in action, taking punch vs George Foreman (L) at 20th of May Stadium. Kinshasa, Zaire 10/30/1974 CREDIT: Ken Regan/Camera 5 (Photo by SI Cover /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: D68960 )


As such, photographer Harry Benson described him recently as “a fine adversary.”

Ken was the first person John Lennon and I saw when we looked out the window as our plane taxied up to the gate at JFK in 1964,”  Benson recounted. “There was a young man with slicked back dark hair and side burns, dressed in black leather. John Lennon turned to me and said, ‘There’s Elvis. He’s met our plane and is taking our picture.’

“We would meet up on the Civil Rights in Mississippi, the Ali-Liston Lewiston fight (I  have a pix  [sic] of him leaning over the ropes). I have always respected him as a fine photographer. He will be missed.”

Born and raised in the Bronx, Ken started his career photographing major sporting events. He took some of the most iconic images of boxer Muhammed Ali, which Ali used for his own marketing.

Ken went on to work as a photojournalist covering many topical issues including the riots and demonstrations in the United States surrounding the Vietnam War, and also photographed in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.

Unafraid to change paths, Ken covered many political assignments and worked exclusively with the Kennedy family, photographing everything from campaigns and conventions to annual family gatherings. In the 1970s Ken founded Camera 5, his own photo agency that represented 15 photographers

The mid ’70s also saw Ken touring with some of the most renowned musicians in Rock N Roll history, including Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. In the ’80s he covered Amnesty International and Live Aid.

By the late ’80s, Ken had more than 200 magazine covers to his credit, as well as numerous awards from the Missouri School of Journalism and World Press Photo, as well as the New York Newspaper Guild.

In the past couple of decades, Ken worked for the film industry, shooting stills and special projects working closely with visionaries such as Clint Eastwood, Jonathan Demme and Ang Lee capturing famous faces including Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson.

Getty Images Vice President of Sports Carmin Romanelli knew him well.

My mind is filled with various memories of Ken,” Romanelli said, “but one of my favorites is the contrast between watching Ken run from assignment to assignment during his coverage of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona with barely any time for a meal or a nap and then watching him sleep soundly in the airport as we awaited our flight back to New York.  We briefly debated if we should just let him sleep in peace and not wake him for the flight, but in the end we could not leave him behind. Ken lived life with the same gusto, always on the run, always making it happen. Now Ken has left us behind to finally rest in peace, he will be greatly missed by all of us whose lives he has touched.”


A wake will be held Dec. 1 and 2 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 1076 Madison Avenue, New York, NY. A funeral mass will be held Dec. 3 at The Church of Ignatius Loyola at 980 Park Avenue, New York, NY at 9:45 a.m. The burial will be private. A memorial service is also being planned for January 2013.

Editor’s note: Elodie Mailliet Storm is the Senior Director of Contour by Getty Images.

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  • Theron Kabrich

    Ken was kind, humble, brilliant. A fine human being who also happened to be a photographer.

    I feel the opportunity to work with Ken on so many planned projects have simply been swept away in an instant, but the idea of being able to hang out on the phone once in awhile and hear his smile through the receiver is what I feel I have really lost.

    Ken’s open generosity of person, his matter of fact kindness are pretty darned unique in a business where humility, genuineness and kindness are rare commodities. He casts a long elegant shadow.

  • Fotoviva Art Prints

    Harry certainly had some great photos in his portfolio and that shot of Ali is an instant classic.