The Kodak Is Holy: Allen Ginsberg’s Photographs


In one of Allen Ginsberg’s early photographs, on view now as part of the retrospective “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg” at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, the poet focuses his lens on a homeless man sitting on the edge of Tompkins Square Park. The man’s face is bloated and scarred and his belongings are piled in a shopping cart. Narrow lunch counters and hulking sedans along Avenue A date the photo to the 1950s. Four decades later, Ginsberg composed a short prose poem along its lower margin:

The first shopping cart street prophet I’d directly noticed, fall leaves scattered on Tompkins Park sidewalk, Avenue A & St. Mark’s Place, over 40 years ago, Leshko’s Restaurant was cheap and popular as at present on the corner a block south, I had my snapshots developed at a drug store near Park Center eatery across the street on S.W. corner, & was living with W.S. Burroughs a few blocks away 206 East 7th Street—working as copyboy on now defunct New York World-Telegram, my apartment rent $29.00 a month, three small rooms, October 1953. Read More