Beat Memories Zooms in on Allen Ginsberg as Photographer

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Allen Ginsberg, Myself seen by William Burroughs, Kodak Retina new-bought 2’d hand from Bowery hock-shop..., 1953 Gelatin silver print, printed 1984–1997 National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Gary S. Davis, 2009.108.1(Courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum)

Allen Ginsberg, Myself seen by William Burroughs, Kodak Retina new-bought 2’d hand from Bowery hock-shop…, 1953 Gelatin silver print, printed 1984–1997 National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Gary S. Davis, 2009.108.1(Courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum)

SAN FRANCISCO — A huge photo mural of a young man posed on a New York rooftop looks out on to Yerba Buena Lane, a busy downtown San Francisco pedestrian walkway, from a ground-level gallery window of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It is a 19- by 25-foot black-and-white image of the poet Allen Ginsberg from 1953, and it beckons visitors inside to take a look at him and other leaders of the Beat Generation through an unexpected lens.

Many are familiar with Ginsberg and his friends, lovers and fellow travelers like Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti through the printed and spoken word. But now, thanks to an exhibition titled, Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg, we can literally get a glimpse into their lives and relationships with one another. The show, which opened this past Thursday, runs through September 8.

After more than half a century, the Beats are again having a moment. A new generation is discovering their counterculture rejection of post-WWII materialism and conformity with the recent release of dramatic features about Ginsberg like “Howl,” starring James Franco, and “Kill Your Darlings,” with Daniel Radcliffe playing the poet, as well as the more Kerouac-focused “On The Road”and “Big Sur.” But while these films provide an artistic interpretation, Ginsberg’s photos are a more direct, intimate and authentic picture of their lives.

Ginsberg was considered one of the most visionary writers of his time, though few knew that for many years, as he was picking away on his typewriter and conducting public readings of his provocative poems, he was also photographing the people who meant the most to him. Between 1953 and 1963, his camera was always close at hand.

 Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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