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The Beat Generation VS. Allen Ginsberg's Photography

In this Prezi I will be comparing the Beats and how they are perceived in literature vs. how Allen Ginsberg's photos capture them based off different photography techniques. I will see if there is a different outlook to the Beat Generation looking just at
by

Simmone Quesnell

on 29 April 2010

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Transcript of The Beat Generation VS. Allen Ginsberg's Photography

The Beat Generation; The beats
in text vs. the beats in allen
Ginsbergs photography. Williams Burrough In Text In Photo Taken at a worm's eye view
The quality of the photo is grainy
Zoomed in gives the photo a "larger than life" aspect
Very intimate and personal due to the depth of field
Gives the viewer the feeling they are apart of the moment due to the background
The back ground consist of a home setting
Very personal from the lack of clothing
Composition is overpowering with the main focus being a shirtless man
Dim lighting of inside creates a shadow in his eyes
This suggest that Allen Ginsberg used a technique similar to the zone system.

By: Simmone
Quesnell If you look closely you'll
see that the grain is very
focused. This indicated that
Allen used a grain finder.
Once you see each individual
grain, the picture is as focused
as it can get. It also leaves the
picture a rustic raw feeling. William Burroughs is the author of
Junky and Naked Lunch. In both novels
the reader is let into Burroughs life and
personal experiences. In Junky he writes
vivid details about his addiction to junk. He
is quick to make assumptions about different
types of people. For example he labels people
who smoke weed "tea heads" and he labels
himself and others who use junk "Junkies".
In Junky he says, "Aside from junk itself, what
you experience during a habit is flat, almost
two-dimensional. You can remember what happened if
you take the trouble, but no memories come back spontaneously from a habit period---except for the intervals of sickness." (pg. 102). I found this interesting because a picture is two-dimensional. The purpose of a picture is to capture a moment in time and perserve it. I take picture so I don't forget and possibly Allen was doing the same. Not to make sure they remember but to make sure they don't forget.
Lighting in doors shadows his eyes. setting inside suggests this is a personal photo. fist up: Brings humor and symbolically says he's ready to fight. shirtless suggest again this is personal and an intimate photo. William Burroughs in Naked Lunch
not only is disturbing and shocking but at
times too graphic for my personal comfort level.
However Naked Lunch does say a lot about
Burroughs and his political and personal views. Not
only in his text but the fact that he published such
an obsence book in America at this time. body language: finger in his mouth Background: home setting and floor body position: very seductive natural light Strictly looking at Burroughs body language he is in a very seductive pose. Again paying close attention to what Burrough’s body is saying to the camera with his finger in his mouth implies that he is thinking. This pose bring another layer to this photo, it bring a mystery for the viewer. Not only what is he thinking about but why is he in such a sexually position. The viewer can gain a sense that Burrough’s is comfortable not only with himself but with others having a glimpse of what comes natural to him. As seen in Naked Lunch written by Burroughs he clearly is not apposed to disclosing personal, sexual and graphic details in his writing. “Only one pound, one queer three dollar bill to see a young boy come three times at least—I never demean myself to process a eunuch—completely against his will.” (Naked Lunch pg. 86). The vulgar and highly sexual senses in Naked Lunch are seen throughout the novel. As Burroughs writes in vivid details, as an author he is quite bold and courageous. To take personal beliefs and issues within American society at those time and pair them with a novel that would shock and scare America was risky. Publishing a book such as Naked Lunch put Burroughs in a vulnerable position being ridiculed by American mainstream however I do not believe this picture of Burroughs fully bodies everything he is. This picture is provocative which he embodies. While he is looking at the camera his eyes are darkened by the shadows. Leaving again a sense of mystery to him When reading Off the Road written by Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady was a man that I thought was charming and completely selfish. Written by his late wife I found that her experiences with Neal Cassady held the most truth about his character. “So stimulating, so exhilarating were these mental tapestries we wove, I far preferred this mutuality to that of sex.” (Off the Road pg. 12). He morphed into a person, a man of Carolyn’s dreams. She was a highly intelligent woman and he became not only a physical love but he connected with her on an intellectual level. He made A bond which for her personality was far more powerful than a physically relationship that was fueled only by sex. In Allen’s photo taken in San Francisco 1955 his caption reads, “Neal Cassady age 29 young and handsome,”
(Allen Ginsberg Photographs pg. 10).
Overall I could not find many differences in Allen Ginsberg’s photos verses text. I believe in the old saying it “takes one to know one” and maybe that is why Allen’s photos depict the Beats so well. Even though I only closely looked at Neal Cassady and William Burroughs photos Allen has photographed all of the major Beats in his time. I found his photos to be visual proof of the text him and the Beats wrote about. They are bold, shocking and beautiful in their own right. I am most impressed with the overall emotional connection the viewer receives after looking at his photos. It is the same feeling I felt after reading Off the Road and Naked Lunch. The inside, no hold back, brave stories of these peoples lives. I felt as if they told me a secret and when I look at these photos I gain the same feeling. None of the photos are overly staged and most are candid but what makes so personal is the scenery around them. These photographs were often taken at home or on outings with friends. A time that is extremely personal. In conclusion I do not believe Allen’s photos of the Beats are different from how they are perceived in text at all. He does a beautiful job at capturing them and so does the text. Each are genuine and that what made the Beat Generation so powerful. It was a time of personal expression and voicing beliefs that were uncensored. Just like the pictures that have an untouched quality to them, which makes them one in the same. Simmone Quesnell's Paper The Beat Generation in Text VS. Allen Ginsberg’s Photography
While reading multiple novels written and most published in the Beat Generation one can quickly determine their own opinions about the Beats. The way they are portrayed in text are quite interesting, writing about personal experiences and their perspective on the people they were submersed around. They showcased raw truth about their lives through their artwork, if it were, poetry, novels or photography. After reading and profiling each of the Beats from multiple pieces of literature such as--Junky, The Portable Beat Reader, Howl, On the Road, Off the Road, Dharma Bums and GO; then based off my own personal experiences and beliefs I will be comparing my perception of them in text verses how Allen Ginsberg’s photography portrays them. The comparing will be done based off a variety of photography techniques such as composition, angles, sharpness and touch ups will be taken into account. This paper will explore how Allen Ginsberg’s perception of his friends through his camera lens, are similar or different through text written by him and other Beats.
When reading Off the Road written by Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady was a man that I thought was charming and completely selfish. Written by his late wife I found that her experiences with Neal Cassady held the most truth about his character. “So stimulating, so exhilarating were these mental tapestries we wove, I far preferred this mutuality to that of sex.” (Off the Road pg. 12). He morphed into a person, a man of Carolyn’s dreams. She was a highly intelligent woman and he became not only a physical love but he connected with her on an intellectual level. He made A bond which for her personality was far more powerful than a physically relationship that was fueled only by sex. In Allen’s photo taken in San Francisco 1955 his caption reads, “Neal Cassady age 29 young and handsome,”

In this picture of Neal is centered in the middle of the frame. Neal is not only the focus point of this frame but he is captured as being sharp, while his background is blurred. With a short depth of field this picture is intimate only seeing Neal from shoulders up. I find this picture to be quite similar to how he is perceived in Carolyn’s Novel Off the Road. Neal was highly spoken about from friends to Carolyn, “Bill told me of daring escapades in cars, near-brushes with the law, deep intellectual and musical safaris” (pg. 1). This photo shows Neal’s face verses a full body shot, which may have taken away from focusing on what makes Neal so charming. His intelligence and how he speaks to a person to become whatever that person needs or wants most. Neal Cassady is a complex person that through out text one cannot really grasp his personality, his character or who he really is. At times he is a picture perfect father, the best friend or the perfect lover and be whole heartily that persona in the moment but he is a chameleon and quickly can move to a different shade of perfect. Looking at the picture he is not looking at the camera his face is down. Due to his position and the natural light Allen used a fast F-stop and in this photo exemplifies a techniques similar to the zone system. “By guaranteeing that the dark areas of your scene have a good exposure, all the other areas should be adequately exposed. This strategy is really a stripped down variation of the Zone System,” (Black and White Photography A Basic Manual pg.92). One can see Neal but at the same time he is kept somewhat a mystery due to the shadows around his eyes. He is recognizable but not seen clearly; even in the print itself the photo has a grainy outlook verses smooth. “When the grain is sharp, the print is as focused as it can be.” (Black and White Photography A Basic Manual pg. 177). The grainy effect of Allan’s photo maybe due to the lack of a filter, either way the photos looks raw. In this moment in time Allan captured Neal and was in focus, similar to how Off the Road shows his character. He is shown to be focused and understood one moment and not in the next in On the Road. As Neal plays the character, Dean Moriarty, he is described as “the holy con-man with the shining mind,” (On the Road pg. 7).
A con-man someone who manipulates other’s into believing he is one thing and then turning to be something else. In the photo the viewer should also look close to the raw grainy quality of the photo and that it is not staged, it seems quite important and similar to not only Neal as an individual, but the Beat Generation as a whole. I believe it could be argued that a Beat, Allen Ginsberg, can clearly see another Beat but in Neal Cassady’s case in this photo can never quite get the full understanding of him. He is seen in a photo but with the shadows and outdoor lighting the audience cannot obtain a completely clear picture. He is a mystery and understood all at the same time, a true paradox of a person.
After reading Naked Lunch and Junky I saw a different part of the Beat Generation. William Burrough’s novels showed a lifestyle that not only shocked mainstream America but left them with a warning. A fear tactic to scare America and keep them from living the lifestyle of the Beats full of experimental drug use. In Allen’s photo of William Burroughs reading a book was taken from a bird’s eye view. At this angle it suggests that Burroughs is vulnerable, allowing the photographer and viewer to look down upon him. With his chest facing the camera and arms at his side his core is open to the photographer, Allen. Strictly looking at Burroughs body language he is in a very seductive pose. Again paying close attention to what Burrough’s body is saying to the camera with his finger in his mouth implies that he is thinking. This pose bring another layer to this photo, it bring a mystery for the viewer. Not only what is he thinking about but why is he in such a sexually position. The viewer can gain a sense that Burrough’s is comfortable not only with himself but with others having a glimpse of what comes natural to him. As I look past Burroughs in the picture, the main focus, I see the background is a floor and the base of a lamp. Again brings up multiple questions for the viewer and adds to the possibility that this photo has even more sexual undertones. Not lying on the couch but the floor, which is odd given that normally a person would not do that but however there is more room on the floor for another person. Possibly, an invitation for others to join him on this floor or plane. I found a connection with him lying on the floor and publishing highly controversial novels. That he does do odd acts, that lying on the ground could be a metaphor for his views on issues can be shared with others verse being restricted such as a sofa may be. As seen in Naked Lunch written by Burroughs he clearly is not apposed to disclosing personal, sexual and graphic details in his writing. “Only one pound, one queer three dollar bill to see a young boy come three times at least—I never demean myself to process a eunuch—completely against his will.” (Naked Lunch pg. 86). The vulgar and highly sexual senses in Naked Lunch are seen throughout the novel. As Burroughs writes in vivid details, as an author he is quite bold and courageous. To take personal beliefs and issues within American society at those time and pair them with a novel that would shock and scare America was risky. Publishing a book such as Naked Lunch put Burroughs in a vulnerable position being ridiculed by American mainstream however I do not believe this picture of Burroughs fully bodies everything he is. This picture is provocative which he embodies. Unlike in this photo, I believe the composition of this photo does Burroughs more justice. Taken at a worm’s eye view he is looking down at the viewer. Like in his novels Junky and Naked Lunch he criticizes American norms that were not acceptable in American society in the 50’s and 60’s. His body position is in a fighting stance with his arms and fist up ready to box. This of course is not literally by his facial expression, adding a sense of humor to the photo. Also adding humor is the fact that he is in his under garments. While he is looking at the camera his eyes are darkened by the shadows. Leaving again a sense of mystery to him. Allen seems to capture his friends and fellow Beats in a way that the view can recognize them but never see them clearly, straight on. He seems to really capture a moment, something candid and never posed. This is a similarity I find with Allen’s photos and how the Beats are written about in text. The Beat Generation was never planned, a group of guys did not get together and strategically figure out how to change America by their poetry and books. However they did. Unlike studio photography were lighting and backdrops are planned out to enhance the photos, Allen’s photography happens in ordinary situations. He keeps a small part of the Generation still as it quickly moved forward and morphed into pages in history. The idea to make something now of the moments presented. Like in the novel GO, “For it’s just the idea of time that perverts us, just the idea!” (GO pg. 50). As Allen’s photos are just an example of this. They disprove the idea of time. For a picture truly stops time for a second and keeps it still. Allen forever keeps not only William Burroughs alive but all of the Beats not only in his poetry, but in his photos as well. Unlike in this photo, I believe the composition of this photo does Burroughs more justice. Taken at a worm’s eye view he is looking down at the viewer. Like in his novels Junky and Naked Lunch he criticizes American norms that were not acceptable in American society in the 50’s and 60’s. His body position is in a fighting stance with his arms and fist up ready to box. This of course is not literally by his facial expression, adding a sense of humor to the photo. Also adding humor is the fact that he is in his under garments. While he is looking at the camera his eyes are darkened by the shadows. Leaving again a sense of mystery to him. Allen seems to capture his friends and fellow Beats in a way that the view can recognize them but never see them clearly, straight on. He seems to really capture a moment, something candid and never posed. This is a similarity I find with Allen’s photos and how the Beats are written about in text. The Beat Generation was never planned, a group of guys did not get together and strategically figure out how to change America by their poetry and books. However they did. Unlike studio photography were lighting and backdrops are planned out to enhance the photos, Allen’s photography happens in ordinary situations. He keeps a small part of the Generation still as it quickly moved forward and morphed into pages in history. The idea to make something now of the moments presented. Like in the novel GO, “For it’s just the idea of time that perverts us, just the idea!” (GO pg. 50). As Allen’s photos are just an example of this. They disprove the idea of time. For a picture truly stops time for a second and keeps it still. Allen forever keeps not only William Burroughs alive but all of the Beats not only in his poetry, but in his photos as well. Unlike in this photo, I believe the composition of this photo does Burroughs more justice. Taken at a worm’s eye view he is looking down at the viewer. Like in his novels Junky and Naked Lunch he criticizes American norms that were not acceptable in American society in the 50’s and 60’s. His body position is in a fighting stance with his arms and fist up ready to box. This of course is not literally by his facial expression, adding a sense of humor to the photo. Also adding humor is the fact that he is in his under garments. While he is looking at the camera his eyes are darkened by the shadows. Leaving again a sense of mystery to him. Allen seems to capture his friends and fellow Beats in a way that the view can recognize them but never see them clearly, straight on. He seems to really capture a moment, something candid and never posed. This is a similarity I find with Allen’s photos and how the Beats are written about in text. The Beat Generation was never planned, a group of guys did not get together and strategically figure out how to change America by their poetry and books. However they did. Unlike studio photography were lighting and backdrops are planned out to enhance the photos, Allen’s photography happens in ordinary situations. He keeps a small part of the Generation still as it quickly moved forward and morphed into pages in history. The idea to make something now of the moments presented. Like in the novel GO, “For it’s just the idea of time that perverts us, just the idea!” (GO pg. 50). As Allen’s photos are just an example of this. They disprove the idea of time. For a picture truly stops time for a second and keeps it still. Allen forever keeps not only William Burroughs alive but all of the Beats not only in his poetry, but in his photos as well. Overall I could not find many differences in Allen Ginsberg’s photos verses text. I believe in the old saying it “takes one to know one” and maybe that is why Allen’s photos depict the Beats so well. Even though I only closely looked at Neal Cassady and William Burroughs photos Allen has photographed all of the major Beats in his time. I found his photos to be visual proof of the text him and the Beats wrote about. They are bold, shocking and beautiful in their own right. I am most impressed with the overall emotional connection the viewer receives after looking at his photos. It is the same feeling I felt after reading Off the Road and Naked Lunch. The inside, no hold back, brave stories of these peoples lives. I felt as if they told me a secret and when I look at these photos I gain the same feeling. None of the photos are overly staged and most are candid but what makes so personal is the scenery around them. These photographs were often taken at home or on outings with friends. A time that is extremely personal. In conclusion I do not believe Allen’s photos of the Beats are different from how they are perceived in text at all. He does a beautiful job at capturing them and so does the text. Each are genuine and that what made the Beat Generation so powerful. It was a time of personal expression and voicing beliefs that were uncensored. Just like the pictures that have an untouched quality to them, which makes them one in the same. Bibliography

Horenstein, Henry. Black and White Photography. Third ed. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005. Print. Revised.
Burroughs, William S. Naked Lunch. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1992. Print.
Cassady, Carolyn. Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg. New York: W. Morrow, 1990. Print.
Kerouac, Jack, and Howard Cunnell. On the Road: the Original Scroll. New York: Viking, 2007. Print.
Ginsberg, Allen. Allen Ginsberg Photographs. Altadena, Calif.: Twelvetrees, 1990. Print.
Ginsberg, Allen, Nicolò Asta, Oliva Achille. Bonito, and Fernanda Pivano. Allen Ginsberg: 108 Images. Turin: Umberto Allemandi for Fred Hoffman Fine Art, Santa Monica, California, 1995. Print.
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