In 1958, Larry Fink — the photographer best-known today for celebrity portraits in magazines like Vanity Fair and GQ — was an 18-year-old college dropout. He moved from his native Long Island to Greenwich Village, and decided to hitchhike across the country with the second generation of Beat artists. “It was my fate to be aligned with the Beats because of my propensity for drugs, anger, and poetry,” Fink writes in The Beats, a new book of previously unpublished photography from his 1958 and 1959 travels. “Since they were second generation, without the same sense of immortal obsession such as the like of Kerouac and Ginsberg, they had a distinct need to be documented.”
Despite confessing that his traveling companions “did not like me much,” (a fact he attributes to his Marxist upbringing), Fink traveled with artists like Amiri Baraka and Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Houston and Mexico, and back to Chicago and Cincinnati. “They desperately needed a photographer to be with them, to give them gravity, record and encode their wary but benighted existence,” he reflects. Click through the slideshow for a look at the intimate, glamorous, and gritty photographs that resulted.
Larry Fink will speak at the Strand in New York on May 21 to celebrate the book’s release.