News-Antique.com - Nov 30,-0001 - This might just be the most defining photo of the “Beat” Generation. Columbia University, 1945, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Hal Chase are pictured together like cavalrymen getting ready for combat. Smug and delinquent, they seem poised for some sort of culture crash.
The “Beats” were the “all grown up” generation with nowhere to go and nothing to offer but their own uncertainty. They were the fringe element of the 1950s, a close knit group of “alienated” and “beat down” writers, searching for truth in altered states.
Ginsberg remembered first hearing the word “Beat” on the streets. Its meaning for him was “exhausted, at the bottom of the world, looking up or out, sleepless, wide-eyed, perceptive, rejected by society, on you own, streetwise." For Kerouac “Beat” referred more to "characters of a special type of spirituality.”
These merry bohemians rose to fame not only for their non-conformity but also their non-conforming style of writing.
“His (Kerouac’s) ideal was not to display his literary skill, but to have a conversation with the reader,” noted Jazz musician, David Amram said.
“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does,” Ginsberg said of his style.
Burroughs believed artists were the real architects of change, not the political legislators who implemented change after the fact.
The photo described has been reproduced thousands of times in many books and publications. This example appears to be of a better quality than most.
The original, sepia-tone, gelatin silver-print photo sold on March 9 at Pacific Book Auction Galleries in San Francisco, Calif. It was taken either directly from the original negative or no more than one generation from it.
Estimated to bring $1,500-$2,500, it sold for $7,475. The photo was featured in the Edwin Blair Collection of Beat Literature plus Modern Literature sale.
LiveAuctionTalk.com author Rosemary McKittrick has been writing weekly about the art, antiques and collectibles field for 16 years. McKittrick is co-author of “The Official Price Guide to Fine Art,” a 1000-page book published by Random House and co-author of four volumes of “McKittrick’s Art Price Guide.”