Allen Ginsberg, once called "the poet laureate of protest," just doesn't know how to stop. Two years ago he was singing about sodomy to a group of junior executives networking at Studio 54. Next he took up rapping, on a record by the British rock group Clash. For his latest venture he has hung about 40 of his most prized photographs in a fancy uptown gallery. It may even sell out, his first art show.
The pictures, somewhere between snapshots and professional layouts, are private shots of his friends, family and lovers -- some of them major figures in recent literature -- traipsing about a frankly bohemian world. Each black-and-white picture is carefully captioned in Ginsberg's own hand.
Poet Gregory Corso hunches over a manuscript in a "poet's attic" in Paris in 1961. Author Neal Cassady, "conscious of his love, Natalie Jackson, soon to die, San Francisco, 1955," stands under a movie marquee for a Marlon Brando triple bill. Author William Burroughs and friend Adam Anser reenact the hanging scene from Burroughs' novel "Naked Lunch" at the Villa Mourneria in Tangier, Morocco, in 1957.
They may not all be great photographs, but they all come out of what Ginsberg calls "sacred moments." The one of his father, Louis Ginsberg, "resting, with cancer, 1976, in his velvet armchair," is, it seems, among the most sacred. "There is my father, fatigued, fatigued . . . hard to get up from the easy chair."
Photographer Robert Frank called the pictures enormously good for someone who does not consider himself a professional. Photographer Berenice Abbott suggested Ginsberg buy a new camera. A visitor to the Holly Solomon Gallery (724 Fifth Ave.), peeked in while Ginsberg and curator Raymond Foye arranged the images of the Beat Generation. "Oh, there you are," she exclaimed. "I didn't know you took photographs."
There he was, in a blue blazer, striped rep tie and sensible shoes -- thinner, but with the same curls ringing his balding head, same granny glasses and wit.
"I don't," said Ginsberg. "These are amateur. Drugstore quality."