The Schmooze

Allen Ginsberg’s Photography Beat

As the ringleader of the ragtag group of professional hedonists, acid-eating Buddhists, and scribbling loners known as the Beats, Allen Ginsberg played many roles. Though Ginsberg is best known as a progenitor of 1950s and ’60s counterculture, when he whipped bookstore readings into frenzies with “Howl” and negotiated with the Hell’s Angels to ensure the safety of anti-war rallies, he was also one of its best chroniclers, both through his biography-riddled poetry and, less famously, through his photography.

Ginsberg began snapping pictures of his fellow beats with a used camera in the early 1950s, capturing his group of intimates as they lounged, smoked, and bopped around Manhattan. This summer, Ginsberg as photographer is getting his first major exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., coinciding with the publication of “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg,” a collection edited by the NGA’s head of photography.

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Allen Ginsberg’s Photography Beat

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