20 Rare Photographs of Allen Ginsberg

On the 20th Anniversary of his Death

April 5, 2017  By Emily Temple

Twenty years ago today, Allen Ginsberg—author of Howl, Beat poet, revolutionary free mind, Buddhist, teacher, activist—died at the age of 70. In addition to being one of the most important and recognized modern poets, Ginsberg was also a photographer, and he took thousands of what he called “certain moments in eternity”: snapshots—usually joyful, often beautiful, sometimes profound, occasionally naked—of himself and his friends, documenting and reflecting the Beat generation and beyond. I particularly love photographs of Ginsberg—the exuberance he brought to his life is so palpable in them; he’s expressive and funny and—dare I say it—real. So on the occasion of his death, here are 20 photographs of Ginsberg—including a number that come with his original annotations, generously provided by his estate—for us to remember him by.

Article continues below
Gary Snyder, Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg. “Hills leading to Himalayan Peaks, in Almora, we were on Pilgrimage to Buddhist sites, here visiting Lama Govinda, March 1962.” Photo snapped by Joanne Kyger Calcutta, August 1962. Photo snapped by Peter Orlovsky “Peter Orlovsky legs crossed mysterious-haired, W.S. Burroughs with camera & hat shading Mediterranean sun, myself white-pants earnest smoking, Alan Ansen resolute visiting from Venice to help type new apocalyptic cut-up material overflow from Naked Lunch, Gregory Corso’d been gambling at casino with Francis Bacon, Corso here sunglassed & Minox’d, Ian Sommerville assisting sound-collage electronic & stroboscope alpha-rhythm & Dream Machine experiments with Bill & Brion Gysin then in town, Paul Bowles squinting in bright mid-day light seated on ground, company assembled outside Burroughs’ French-door’d room on garden, my Kodak-Retina in young Michael Portman’s hands, Villa Muniria, 1 Calle Magellanes, Tangier July 1961.” “Summer 1965, 8-day backpack climbing in wilderness area of Northern Cascades, Glacier Park, Washington State, Gary Snyder back from a near-decade in Kyoto studying & practicing Zazen. My first mountain walk.” “Whitewashed room overlooking Tangier Bay down the street from Burroughs’ Villa Mouneria. Peter Orlovsky and I lived there visited by Gregory Corso and Paul Bowles’ friend Achmed Yacoubi, self-portrait in bed Tangier 1961” Eastside High Paterson yearbook photo, c. 1940 Near Lake Pátzcuaro, Mexico, 1951 Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, goofing around, Allen’s apartment, 206 East 7th Street, NYC. Fall 1953, snapped by WS Burroughs Ginsberg in bed, San Francisco, 1955. Snapped by Peter Orlovsky Allen Ginsberg, Berkeley, 1955 Lucien Carr, Burroughs, Ginsberg, New York City, 1953 “From roof of Brahmin’s house, where we’d rented third floor room six months December to May 1963, could see past temple mandir tops across Ganges River to other shore. Our balconies hung over vegetable-meat market one side, other side overlooked sacred Dasaswamedh alley down to bathing steps Ghat, peopled by pilgrims beggars & cows; monkey’s visited and snatched our bananas, Peter Orlovsky held my retina, Benares India Spring 1963.” Ginsberg being crowned May King (Kral Majales) by Czech students, May 1965 Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, photobooth, Paris 1957 A modest portrait, Allen Ginsberg left Gregory Corso right, Tangier 1961, snapshot by Peter Orlovsky, smiles by Corso, camera by Allen Ginsberg. Eastside High School, yearbook 1942 , Paterson NJ Alameda Park in front of the Neptune (Poseidon) Fountain, Mexico City, Fall 1956. (clockwise) Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Lafcadio Orlovsky, Gregory Corso “Allen Ginsberg, Utilityman, S.S. John Blair, New York harbor, about October 30, 1947. I handed my camera to the radio operator. We’d just come back from Galveston-Dakar voyage, here fantail of ship.” “Self-portrait on my seventieth birthday in Borsolino hat black cashmere-silk scarf from Milan & Dublin Thornproof-tweed suit, Oleg Cassini tie from Goodwill shirt same source, kitchen window mid-day, I stayed home & worked on Selected Poems 1947-95 proofs returning from Walker Art Center reading—Beat exhibition weekend. Monday June 3, 1996, N.Y.” Photobooth, Mexico, 1954

Emily Temple
Emily Temple
Emily Temple is the managing editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins in June 2020. You can buy it here.

More Story
Alexander McCall Smith: In Praise of W.H. Auden Alexander McCall Smith, best known for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, sees his latest book, My Italian Bulldozer,...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.