The photographs capturing the raw energy of the Beat Generation

An era as elusive and enigmatic as some of their poetry, the Beat Generation were both a diverse counterculture and a tight-knit community.

Made up of some notorious names – from Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac, Larry Rivers to William de Kooning – there were writers, artists, dancers, models, activists, musicians, all living the bohemian life and its ideals.

Offering a virtually unseen look into their creative way of life, Burt Glinn’s rare photography captures the raw energy of the Beatniks like none other has.Recently discovered in Glinn’s archive, the Magnum photographer had shot the influential bohemians at their most candid. Set between 1957 and 1960 in New York and San Francisco – the two Beat hotspots – his social documentary work celebrates the spirit of their culture, in bars, cafes, book shops and parties. Shot in colour prints, the vibrancy and richness of the photography shows the Beats in a way that has never been seen before.

A chess interlude during a break in the revelry at the Blackhawk, a night spot on the corner of Turk and Hyde Street where eminent jazz performers are often to be found in action. That is the sun coming through the red and white striped window. The player making the move here is Earl Bostic. San Francisco, 1960.

Also archived with Burt Glinn’s photography was a lost essay manuscript by Jack Kerouac, entitled And This Is The Beat Nightlife of New York. Bringing together these rare photographs and the never before read Kerouac piece in a detailed coffee table book, The Beat Scene, Glinn’s work exemplifies the Beatnik search for truth. Shooting them at their most natural, in discussion and in relaxation, they are as bohemian and provocative as we’d hope.

Scroll down through to get a sneak peek into The Beat Scene by Burt Glinn below, published by Reel Art Press, which will be available from 2nd July online here.

Beat Poet Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy) reads poetry at the White Horse Tavern. New York City, 1959.

A French dancer improvising to the music at David Stone Martin's party. The band play with both Eastern and Western instruments. San Francisco, 1960.

Up these stairs, the entrance of the Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, climb the night-reading poets and their public. Poetry is read till the early hours of the morning. New York City. 1959.

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