A Kodak Moment

Posted by Jeff Markowitz on Monday, May 3, 2010
Before cell phone cameras,
before digital technology, before 35 mm SLR, most Americans used simple Kodak cameras to capture moments, at once special and and mundane, with family and friends.  These cameras were pretty basic, no focus mechanism, no range finder, no light meter, just a simple camera with which to build a visual history in black-and-white.    To this day, somewhere in your attic, there's probably a box of old black-and-white family photos, America in the 1950s.  And though these photos are at times interesting, a snapshot of another time and place, there's really very little about these old photographs that warrants mounting a display in the National Gallery of Art.

Except that this particular box of old photos, most of them taken in the 1950s with a Kodak Retina camera, and long-forgotten by their owner, are the property of the poet Allen Ginsberg.  Photos of William S. Burroughs, of Jack Kerouac, of Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Neal Cassady and, of course, of Ginsberg himself.  Forgotten for decades, Ginsberg unearthed his old stash of photos, adding, in his own hand, his annotations of the people, the places, the thoughts and feelings of the moment.  The Beats at work and play.

And it's on display in Washington DC at the National Gallery of Art starting yesterday (Sunday) and continuing until September 6.  In a bit of timing and good luck, Mrs. Doah and I were able to tour the exhibit on Saturday, prior to it's official opening.  Trust me on this... if you have a certain affection for the Beat poets and writers, it is an extraordinary way to spend an afternoon.

Here's a video clip of the actor John Turturro reciting Ginsberg's masterpiece, Howl.

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