I took advantage of having to do some work DC and finally made it to the National Gallery of Art to catch Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg before it closes. I ended up walking the couple of miles from the office to NGA, thankful that summer is finally on its way out. Nothing beats a good stroll for a little reflection.
Getting to Ginsberg required cutting through Impressionism. I’ll admit that I was pretty full of myself, scoffing at being directed through a style of art I thought I’d left behind in my teens. I was all set to breeze through this section when, not having gone five feet, a Modigliani stopped me in my tracks.
More Modernist than Impressionist, I’m sure all of your serious art lovers consider him a tad cliché. I don’t care. I love everything about them.
(I wonder if artists who paint nudes today paint them media-skinny.)
My new approach to the larger galleries is to only hit exhibits I’m interested in and not feel guilted into taking on the entire gallery in a day. I was briefly sidetracked by a few pieces by Georges Braque but was determined to keep on toward Ginsberg.
I was a little worried about being under-whelmed with the Ginsberg exhibit. What could I possibly get from photos of the Beat literati? Instead, I found validation and more than a little encouragement. Ginsberg excelled at the snapshot, documenting his life and that of his friends. I was struck by how much his photos were like mine and those of my friends. He captured life’s moments and documented his people. There was an intimacy to the photos that drew me in and made me feel like I, too, was a part of their lives. Not only was this something tangible he could look back on over the years, but documenting it also allowed him to share this with us.
It was a reminder to keep documenting life. Post your photos to Facebook, Flickr or that new photo album. Write about your photos and record your stories, too. Future generations will thank you for the context. A quote I saw this week on Twitter comes to mind.
“Thinking about your legacy when you’re 30 gives you a 20-year head start from when most people start worrying about it.”
We won’t all be Ginsbergs, but even the most mundane among us can inform future generations. By the way, did I mention how hot Kerouac was in 1953?