In 1965, as the Rolling Stones juggernaut began to rank up to an uncontrollable speed, Danish photographer Bent Rej found himself in the “right place at the right time” and a relationship was born.
Aged 25 and working for Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, Rej was assigned to capture the Scandinavian and German stops of the Rolling Stones’ European tour which was ramping up with hysterical fans after the band’s second LP, The Rolling Stones No. 2, was released and proudly place at number one in the charts.
Rej’s personality and striking work instantly resulted in him becoming close to the band and, more specifically, Brian Jones who he became close friends with during the tour. Having initially being tasked with a job by Ekstra Bladet, Rej quickly became part of the Stones’ entourage and is widely credited as being the person who introduced model Anita Pallenberg—who became the lover of both Brian Jones and Keith Richards—to the band.
With stardom beckoning for Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones, Rej began to build his both professional and personal relationship at a time when the band members remained slightly naive to the rock and roll foundations they were building. While he was generally close friends the band as a whole, Rej clicked instantly with Jones who, after the European tour ended, invited the photographer to London to hang out in a more relaxed environment without the constraints of Rej’s looming newspaper deadline.
Rej once wrote of his experience capturing the band in their home: “After Brian had stayed with me in Copenhagen, I went to stay at Brian’s rented house, 14 Elm Park Mews (actually a mews house in Elm Park Lane) in Chelsea, when he had moved into in March 1965.”
He added: “I stayed in Brian’s home on all my visits to London over the next year. I had my own key, my own room and bathroom, and came and went as pleased. As often as not there were fans outside in the street but not on this particular occasion.”
While Rej was staying in Jones’ Chelsea home, the series of intimate photographs became a natural transition as the two shared artistic art form. After seeing the results, Rej decided to extend the series to the rest of the band. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman jumped at the opportunity, Keith Richards didn’t have a home so invited the photographer to his Hilton Hotel suite and Mick Jagger, who was reluctant at first, accepted after Rej told him there could be a financial reward.
“So much has been written about the rebellious music of the sixties—but nothing captures the freedom, recklessness and sex drugs and rock ’n’ roll as the photography,” the Bent Rej Archive writes. “Rej’s photographs are glimpses of a magical era where music tested its limits and the new genre of rock was in the throes of its birth.”
They add: “Bent’s work not only shows us portraits of legendary rock musicians from the 1960s, it also represents a rare insight into a musical universe littered with personal memories thanks to his intimate friendships with the artists.”
An an attempt to continue Rej’s legacy, his family are fronting the archive and sharing stories of his life behind the lens. “We wish to extend people’s knowledge of our fathers legacy, to continue to share his work with other photo art enthusiasts and collaborate with only the best galleries possible,” Ny Rej said.
“Even though we were just (barely) born at that time (in the early sixties) we are still passionate about his work, vibrant, intimate and sometimes vulnerable moments of some of the greatest rock legends in their very early beginning of a great career. We enjoy them and hope you will too!”