Allen Ginsberg & Philip Glass, 1993.

by Tim Soter

Back in my last semester of college, James Carroll through his New Arts Program brought Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass together to rural Kutztown, Pennsylvania.  Set in a small town church, Glass performed and Ginsberg howled separately and together – tickets were a mere $16.  I was far removed from New York City culture, but I certainly knew who these two were and was excited to hear them.  After the performance I snuck back to the vestibule to greet them, the earnest student that I was.  I was able to tell Glass that I listened to his album all the time when I’m in tub, which is all my apartment had at the time, no shower.  I’m sure he politely nodded at what I thought at that moment was an Earth shatteringly sublime anecdote.

I nervously asked Ginsberg if I could take his portrait.  (I love his photographs to this day; wonderful smartly composed snapshots of himself and his beat buddies, with handwritten text below the print.)  I held my Yashica Mat twin lens, looking down to frame him seated in a chair.  He stopped me.  “No, let me show you how to do that,” he offered.  “Sit down and rest the camera on your knee, it’ll act as a tripod.”  I did as he said and sure enough he was right.  In such low light, the photo would have been a blur any other way.

As it is, the photo still turned out pretty terrible – the scan above is a print I came across recently that I had tucked away in one of his books.  Still, the photo is just a trigger for the memory of being green and ambitious amongst such talent.