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Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg Hardcover – May 20, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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Allen Ginsberg is considered by many as one of the original members of the Beat Generation, an exciting group of 1950s and 60s artists, poets and authors that included Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and William S. Burroughs. Based primarily in San Francisco and New York, the Beats were the precursors to many of the social change movements of the 60s, and as such they are considered cultural pioneers. Beat Memories contains 80 photos by Ginsberg from over a decade of travel, creative endeavors and close friendships. A very intriguing feature of this book, and one which other publishers might consider, is that under many of these personal photos are detailed, handwritten descriptions describing their context. It is similar to looking at someone s very exciting travel photographs and having them tell you the story behind each one. Plus, for those who can t read Ginsberg s handwriting, there s a typed appendix repeating the information. --Rangefinder Magazine, 12/01/2011 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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This intimate family album is a revealing photographic look at the Beat Generation as chronicled by the movement s great poet Allen Ginsberg. Allen Ginsberg began photographing in the late 1940s when he purchased a small, second-hand Kodak camera. For the next fifteen years he took photographs of himself, his friends, and lovers, including the writers and poets Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Gregory Corso as well as Beat personality Neal Cassady. He abandoned photography in 1963 and took it up again in the 1980s, when he was encouraged by photographers Berenice Abbott and Robert Frank to reprint his earlier work and make new portraits; these included more images of longtime friends as well other acquaintances such as painters Larry Rivers and Francesco Clemente and musician Bob Dylan. Ginsberg's photographs form a compelling portrait of the Beat and counterculture generation from the 1950s to the 1990s.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel; 1st edition (May 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791350528
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791350523
  • Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 9.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By thomas gladysz on April 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg" is the catalog to an exhibit of the acclaimed poet's photographs exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It is beautifully printed, and the catalog essay by renowned curator and photo historian Sarah Greenough is both informative and insightful. Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso, Cassady and Orlovsky are pictured throughout - as are Bob Dylan and many others. Ginsberg's work as a photographer should not come as a surprise; his poetry is intensely visual, and his aesthetics as a visual artist were similar to his aesthetics as a poet. Also, Ginsberg associated with visual artists throughout his life - and they inform his work. This new book contains portraits of some of them - Larry Rivers, Francesco Clemente, Harry Smith, and Robert LaVigne. Ginsberg "teachers" in photography were Robert Frank (also pictured), and to a lesser degree, Berenice Abbott, and Elsa Dorfman.

For various reasons (the beautiful printing, uncommon images, Greenough's insightful essay), this book should now be included among the must-have books on Beat culture. My 1991 interview with Allen Ginsberg on the subject of photography takes up 7 pages. There is also a extensive chronology of Ginsberg's efforts as a visual artist, and a bibliography of related works. Get this book now.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ted in New York City on June 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A lifelong Beats fan, I heartily recommend this new collection of photographs by Allen Ginsberg, which is based upon an exhibition currently on display at the National Gallery of Art. Most of the photographs include powerful, frequently poignant, captions written in the margins by Allen Ginsberg in his own hand.

This masterpiece clearly trumps an earlier book of photographs published by Allen Ginsberg and Twin Palms in 1991. Perhaps due to technological advances since then, the quality of prints in this one is far superior. Even more importantly, "Beat Memories" contains several significant Allen Ginsberg photographs not included in the 1991 edition.

Perhaps my favorite is a stunning 1961 photograph of William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Paul Bowles in Tangiers, with two adolescent boys crouching in the background. As the Washington Post so aptly observed in its review of the National Gallery exhibition, "someone clearly staged the photograph to put the lads in the shadows, as if to say that youth is servile before art, or that art needs to keep its distance from unformed minds in beautiful bodies. Whatever Ginsberg may have intended, it's a striking image, and it argues implicitly with the idea that the Beats were merely a youth movement, a moment of sexy counterculture, fueled with libidinous energy."

This book is a must-have for followers of Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation, as well as an important contribution to the documentary history of mid-20th century American photography. Bravo!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is currently (May 2 -- September 6,2010) exhibiting a collection of photographs by the American poet Allen Ginsberg (1926 -- 1997). The Beats remain one of my passions. The book is produced and edited by Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the deparment of photographs at the National Gallery. Greenough sets the stage for the photographs which follow with an insightful introductory essay bearing the title of this review. She discusses Ginsberg's use of photography at various times during his life and relates his photographic endeavors to his poetry.

Together with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, Ginsberg was at the center of a small group of young men in the vicinity of Columbia University in the mid-1940s who would become notorious as the "Beats" of the 1950s. As described by Greenough (p.7), "the Beats were outsiders with a keen appreciation of life on the edge. Often living hand-to-mouth and uninterested in middle-class American culture, values, and morality, they embraced instead an alternative lifestyle which promoted personal freedom, sexual openness, spontanaiety, movement, and speed."

Ginsberg had an epiphany in the 1940s which led him to his calling as a poet. He would become famous as the author of "Howl" and "Kaddish." In his early years, he gradually developed an interest in photography, taking most of his pictures on an inexpensive box camera. He essentially gave up photography in the 1960s but recovered his interest in the medium in the 1980s and returned to his long-forgotten photographs of years earlier. In a small but generally legible script, Ginsberg added annotations to many of his earlier pictures.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin J. Roberts on September 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I sat in the front row, center, at a Bob Dylan concert in 1993. I looked to my right to find that I was sitting next to Allen Ginsberg. Though photography at a Dylan concert is a taboo (even more strictly enforced than audio recording), Ginsberg spent a good portion of the concert clicking away with his Leica camera (nothing but the best!). At the end of the last encore, Dylan strode up to the edge of the stage, crouched down to his knees, and, just a few feet apart, silently stared into Ginsberg's eyes for several minutes. Then Dylan scurried off the stage without exchanging a word with his good friend.
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