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Allen Ginsberg’s Hand-Annotated Photos of the Beat Generation

Disappointed by the On the Road movie? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Luckily, NYU’s Grey Art Gallery is offering a far superior option for those in search of an inside glimpse at how the Beat Generation lived. Beginning January 15, New Yorkers can visit the gallery’s Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg to peruse a selection of 110 photos taken (and often captioned by hand) by none other than Allen Ginsberg. From a shot of Jack Kerouac’s muse, Neal Cassady, and “his love of the year” snuggling under a cinema marquee advertising a Brando triple feature to a solemn photo of William S. Burroughs at the Met, the annotated images provide a personal, visual scrapbook of Ginsberg’s life in the 1950s and beyond. Click through to preview a selection of images from the show.

Allen Ginsberg, “Now Jack as I warned you far back as 1945, if you keep going home to live with your ‘Memère’ you’ll find yourself wound tighter and tighter in her apron strings till you’re an old man and can’t escape…” William Seward Burroughs camping as an André Gide-ian sophisticate lecturing the earnest Thomas Wolfean All-American youth Jack Kerouac who listens soberly dead-pan to “the most intelligent man in America” for a funny second’s charade in my living room 206 East 7th Street Apt 16, Manhattan, one evening Fall 1953, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 1/8 x 17 3/8 in. (28.3 x 44.2 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Allen Ginsberg, utility man S.S. John Blair just back from Galveston-Dakar doldrums trip, I handed my camera to the radio-man on the ship’s fantail, smoking what? In New York harbor, circa October 30, 1947, 1947, Gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 10 7/8 x 7 3/8 in. (27.6 x 18.8 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg, LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and his love of that year the star-cross’d Natalie Jackson conscious of their rôles in Market Street Eternity: Cassady had been prototype for Jack Kerouac’s 1950 On the Road saga hero Dean Moriarty, as later in 1960’s he’d taken the driver’s wheel of Ken Kesey’s psychedelic-era day-glo painted Merry Prankster crosscountry bus “Further.” Neal’s illuminated American automobile mania, “unspeakably enthusiastic” friendship & erotic energy had already written his name in bright-lit signs of our literary imaginations before movies were made imitating his charm. That’s why we stopped under the marquee to fix the passing hand on the watch, San Francisco, maybe March 1955, 1955, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 9 7/8 x 14 7/8 in. (24.9 x 38 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs looking serious, sad lover’s eyes, afternoon light in window, cover of just- published Junkie propped in shadow above right shoulder, Japanese kite against Lower East Side hot water flat’s old wallpaper. He’d come up from South America & Mexico to stay with me editing Yage Letters & Queer manuscripts. New York Fall 1953, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 7 5/8 x 11 3/8 in. (19.2 x 29 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Bob Donlon (Rob Donnelly, Kerouac’s Desolation Angels), Neal Cassady, myself in black corduroy jacket, Bay Area poets’ “Court Painter” Robert La Vigne & poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of his City Lights Books shop, Broadway & Columbus Avenue North Beach. Donlon worked seasonally as Las Vegas waiter & oft drank with Jack K., Neal looks good in tee shirt, Howl first printing hadn’t arrived from England yet (500 copies), we were just hanging around, Peter Orlovsky stepped back off curb & snapped shot, San Francisco spring 1956, 1956, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 1/8 x 16 3/4 in. (28.3 x 42.6 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, We went uptown to look at Mayan Codices at Museum of Natural History & Metropolitan Museum of Art to view Carlo Crivelli’s green-hued Christ-face with crown of thorns stuck symmetric in his skull—here Egyptian wing William Burroughs with a brother Sphinx, Fall 1953 Manhattan, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 8 3/4 x 9 7/8 in. (22.3 x 25.1 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Rebecca Ginsberg, Buba, wife of Pincus, laundry-man later tobacco-store owner, my paternal grandmother (b. Russia near Kaminetz-Podolska May 1869–d. July 1962) visiting her elder son Louis’ house, here 84 years old at table for Seder preparations. She’d attended Adult Education English classes in Newark 14 years earlier, written patriotic essay declaring “God Blast America!” Younger son Uncle Abe & daughters Aunt Rose, Clara & H.S. teacher Hannah were her children. Dining room 428 East 34th Street, Paterson New Jersey April 1953, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (16.5 x 24.2 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, his attic room 9 Rue Gît-le-Coeur, wooden angel hung from wall right, window looked on courtyard and across Seine half-block away to spires of St. Chapelle on Ile St. Louis. Gregory’s Gasoline was ready at City Lights, in attic he prepared “Marriage,” “Power,” “Army,” “Police,” “Hair” and “Bomb” for Happy Birthday of Death book. Henri Michaux visited, liked Corso’s “mad children of soda-caps” phrasing. Burroughs came from Tangier to live one flight below, shaping Naked Lunch manuscript, Peter Orlovsky and I had window on street two flights downstairs, room with two-burner gas stove, we ate together often, rent $30 a month. I’d begun Kaddish litany, Peter his “Frist Poem.”, 1956, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 14 x 14 in. (35.6 x 35.5 cm),National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac the last time he visited my apartment 704 East 5th Street, N.Y.C., he looked by then like his late father, red-faced corpulent W. C. Fields shuddering with mortal horror, grimacing on D.M.T. I’d brought back from visiting Timothy Leary of Millbrook Psychedelic Community, Fall 1964,1964, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. (29.5 x 20.8 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, 1953, gelatin silver print,4 x 6 in. (10.2 x 15.2 cm), Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg, LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, 1953, gelatin silver print, 6 x 4 in. (15.2 x 10.2 cm), Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg, LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky at James Joyce’s grave, Zurich Switzerland December 1980, we climbed up the cemetery and found Joyce’s statue snowcovered, brushed it off his head, 1980, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 7 1/2 x 11 1/4 in. (19 x 28.5 cm), collection of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Myself seen by William Burroughs, Kodak Retina new-bought 2’d hand from Bowery hock-shop, our apartment roof Lower East Side between Avenues B & C, Tompkins Park trees under new antennae. Alan Ansen, Gregory Corso & Jack Kerouac visited, Jack’s The Subterraneans records much of the scene, Burroughs & I edited letter-manuscripts he’d sent from Mexico & South America, Alene Lee (“Mardou Fox” of The Subterraneans) typed final drafts. Neighborhood was heavily Polish & Ukranian, some artists, junkies, medical students, cheap restaurants like “Leshkos” corner 7th & A, rent was only 1⁄4 of my monthly $120 wage as newspaper copyboy. Time of “The Green Automobile” poem to Cassady, Fall 1953, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 1/4 x 17 1/4 in. (28.6 x 43.8 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, 1955, gelatin silver print, 4 x 2 3/4 in. (10 x 6.9 cm), Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg, LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac wandering along East 7th Street after visiting Burroughs at our pad, passing statue of Congressman Samuel “Sunset” Cox, “The Letter-Carrier’s Friend” in Tompkins Square toward corner of Avenue A, Lower East Side; he’s making a Dostoyevsky mad-face or Russian basso be-bop Om, first walking around the neighborhood, then involved with The Subterraneans, pencils & notebook in wool shirt-pockets, Fall 1953, Manhattan, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 1/2 x 17 3/4 in. (29.2 x 45.1 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs on roof of apartment house East Seventh Street where I had a flat, we were lovers those months, editing his letters into books not published till decades later (as Queer, 1985) Lower East Side Fall 1953, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 10 1/4 x 7 in. (26.9 x 17.7 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Allen Ginsberg, 1953, gelatin silver print, 3 x 4 3/8 in. (7.6 x 11.2 cm), Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg, LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Larry Rivers with his portrait of poet John Ashbery’s poem “Pyrography” (1977), his studio Southhampton L. I. July 7, 1985. He worked out with weightlift instructor too that day, as well as new styrofoam 3-D painting,1985, gelatin silver print, printed 1985–97, 11 1/8 x 7 7/8 in. (28.2 x 19.9 cm),National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Publisher-hero Barney Rosset whose Grove Press legal battles liberated U.S. literature & film— at Tower Books’ N.Y. symposium on new 90’s Censorship Politics, June 20, 1991, 1991, gelatin silver print, printed 1991–97, 8 1/2 x 5 3/4 in. (21.5 x 14.5 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, <em, 1991, gelatin silver print, printed 1991–97, 8 3/4 x 13 in. (22.2 x 33 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, railroad brakeman’s rule-book in pocket couch-pillows airing on fire-escape three flights up overlooking backyard clotheslines south. He’d already published The Town & the City, completed a treasury of half-dozen unprinted classic volumes including On the Road, Visions of Cody, Doctor Sax, early books of Blues and Dreams, & had begun The Subterraneans’ adventurous love affair with Alene Lee, “Mardou Fox.” Alene typed for W. S. Burroughs then in residence editing Yage Letters & Queer mss., unpublishable that decade, censorship ruled. I scribed “The Green Automobile,” Gregory Corso visited that season, 206 East 7th Street near Tompkins Park, Manhattan, probably September 1953, 1953, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 13 5/8 x 9 1/4 in. (34.8 x 23.5 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Francesco Clemente looking over hand-script album with new poem I’d written out for his Blake-inspired watercolor illuminations, we’d done two books before; entrance corner of his loft overlooking Great Jones Street Manhattan, October 1984. He liked this picture, 1984, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 15 7/8 x 10 5/8 in. (40.4 x 27 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, I sat for decades at morning breakfast tea looking out my kitchen window, one day recognized my own world the familiar background, a giant wet brick-walled undersea Atlantis garden, waving ailanthus (“stinkweed”) “Trees of Heaven,” with chimney pots along Avenue A topped by Stuyvesant Town apartments’ upper floors two blocks distant on 14th Street, I focus’d on the raindrops along the clothesline. “Things are symbols of themselves,” said Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. New York City August 18, 1984, 1984,gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 16 1/2 x 11 in. (42 x 28 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, 11 PM late March 1985, being driven home to 222 Bowery. Experimenting with hand held half-second Rolleiflex exposure, camera upside down for view, Burroughs phantom in street light stop sign illuminations fuzzy, couldn’t move back further to focus sharper, I was in rear seat, 1985, gelatin silver print, printed 1985–97, 7 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (19.7 x 18.9 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

Allen Ginsberg, Allen Ginsberg, 1955, gelatin silver print, 2 3/4 x 4 in. (6.9 x 10 cm), Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

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