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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Who Took the Pictures?

We call them the "Beat Generation" now, but in 1958 they weren't icons. They were artists, being artists in Greenwich Village and San Francisco, Mexico and Paris. Now we see iconic photographs taken by Harry Redl and Larry Fink and we wonder if these photographers knew something no one else did when they looked at Allen Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac.

"In the mid-fifties it was something special to have a brilliant photographer coming around to photograph the outlaw and outcast art scene. We didn't know yet that we were "Beats" or the "San Francisco Renaissance" but Harry Redl's photographs helped to delineate those movements, and helped us define ourselves. Harry came by my apartment to photograph us -- and also to photo Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia -- or whoever else was visiting. 

Harry did studies of our maudite style of living. One time Harry had two free air tickets to Reno and we took the flight together to look at the desert city of black jack and chrome; other times we'd sit up drinking coffee and smoking black Spanish cigarettes. Harry was the image shaper of a scene that stretched from outspoken poets to Assemblage artists. Thanks to Harry we have the black and gray and white shapes of it in all their stark romantic clarity."
    --Michael McClure

When Fink was eighteen years old he moved to Greenwich Village and during that year met a group of artists, writers, and musicians he’s said“desperately needed a photographer to be with them, to give them gravity, to live within them, record and encode their wary but benighted existence.” 

Fink and his camera traveled with them to Houston and Mexico, and ultimately Fink left the group, citing his Marxist beliefs. The resulting photographs were published by powerHouse Books for the first time last year in The Beats (2014)."
--Artsy Editorial 

Photographer: Patrizio Cuscito
Shadow photographer: Horia Varlan