Freddie Mercury in his ultimate pose – Denis O’Regan’s Best Photography | Photography

meI have been surrounded by gangs all my life. I went to school in Ealing, which is where Freddy Mercury He went to art school. Likewise, Ronnie Wood and Pete Townshend. Olympic Studios, where Led Zeppelin, The Who and the Rolling Stones recorded, was near Barnes, where I lived. Now it’s a movie theater: the Stones recorded Sympathy for the Devil in the room where you watch movies.

I was on the periphery of everything, but my parents wouldn’t let me go to art school and I ended up working for an insurance broker in the City. It wasn’t what he wanted to do. I started going to see bands at Hammersmith Odeon, and I saw David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. One night, I smuggled in a cheap Russian camera to watch Paul McCartney and Wings do their sound check. Queen were the opening act, so I took a picture of them playing and managed to sell it. It was my first painting sale.

I taught myself, but I couldn’t get a photo pass without a portfolio and I couldn’t get a portfolio without a photo pass. Punk came at the right time: I suddenly had access to bands for 75p, and these were the pictures the music papers wanted. Once my name started appearing in NME, I was able to maneuver things more.

A photographer I met at a Damned concert shared a house with Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy. I hung out there and one day Phil said they were going to Scandinavia. I said, “Take me with you?” This is how I became a tour photographer. After Thin Lizzy, I shot Bowie, the Stones, the Bee Gees and Neil Diamond. Duran Duran in the United States was like Beatlemania. Bowie was very kind, down to earth and funny. I spent two years with him practically every day. Being with the Stones was amazing. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to fly around the world with a rock band on his private jet?

It’s hot Queen on the 1986 Magic Tour, which no one knew would be his last. They were so big by then. He wanted to tour with them because it was a great show and Freddie was a once-in-a-lifetime showman. I think this is one of the few shots that exemplifies it. That way he throws, no one else did. It looks like a flexible toy. There’s also the way he holds the microphone, one of his trademarks. It was so hard to photograph when he moved: he would have been in that pose for a microsecond, because he would have been spinning.

I only had 36 images on a roll, and film was very expensive, so I couldn’t take one photo after another. Every time I pressed the shutter it cost me a pound. So I became a sniper. He’d follow Freddie like he had a movie camera, then when he saw the shot in that nanosecond, he’d take the picture. The focus was all manual. I often had a very bad headache after the shows because the tension in the brain was so intense. You’re looking at the lights and what the artist is doing so closely.

This was a summer program. The further north you go, the later it gets dark, so Maine Road in Manchester was all day. I shot with an old Olympus and the film could only go up to a certain speed, so if someone is moving fast you need daylight for it to work. Plus, shooting into the crowd means the people who adore you are in the same photo.

Offstage, Freddie could be quite shy, but he was probably the funniest person I’ve ever toured with. Apparently he always referred to me as Doris. Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, said: “Didn’t you know that?” Not me – Freddie obviously used to call me that when he wasn’t around. On stage, however, he was just as flamboyant. He commanded a whole crowd, like he did at Live Aid. If you think of Freddie, this photo would be perfect.

Denis O’Regan’s 69 Days exhibition can be viewed online at west-contemporary-editions.com and in person at Denis O’Regan Gallery, London, on November 25 and 26

Denis O'Regan

Denis O’Regan’s CV

Born: London, 1953
Trained: autodidact
Influences: “David Bowie, the Beatles, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. I bought my first Mac in 1987, two years before Adobe released Photoshop, which I instantly adopted.”
Decisive point: “The birth of my son in 2006. And David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight World Tour1983.”
Low point: “My mother’s cancer. She died in 1978 at the age of 47.
Better advice: “Stop whining. Just do it.”

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