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Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg Hardcover – May 20, 2010
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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.
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!
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was almost giddy with pleasure and surprise--just looking at the cover, front and back, sideways and upside down, and then began flipping the pages from back to front, stopping... Read morePublished on September 6, 2010 by George Sebouhian
We were fortunate enough to have stumbled upon Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg at the National Gallery of Art when we recently visited DC. Read morePublished on July 14, 2010 by phussann