“We Are Continually Exposed to the Flashbulb of Death”


This video, narrated by Barbara Fischer, Director of the University of Toronto Art Centre, explores the recently opened exhibition of photographs by Allen Ginsberg at UTAC. Organized in collaboration with the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, the exhibition comprises over 150 photographs taken by the legendary Beat poet and activist. The photographs are drawn on the collection of close to 8,000 prints recently donated by The Rossy Family Foundation to the Fisher Library and the University of Toronto Art Centre.


“As [Beat] poet and photographer Allen Ginsberg told an audience at the Sackler Lecture Hall [in March 1988] “we are continually exposed to the flashbulb of death,” cameras flashed away and a roar of laughter rose from the crowd of nearly 200 people.

Poetry and photography came together in that instant, and the connection of the two was the topic of Ginsberg’s speech on photographic poets in the second of three lectures sponsored by the Friends of the Harvard Art Museums called Focus on Photography.

Photographers fix the shadow of the moment and preserve it,” said Ginsberg, who also praised the 20th century imagist poets such as William Carlos Williams for their attentiveness to detail and for “seeing a decisive moment in a glimpse on the street.”

In the question and answer session which followed, a man known as Brother Blue praised Ginsberg saying, “you are the living poem.”

All of us with ordinary minds have the capacity for not living in eternity. Out of sensitivity [to the others with whom we also suffer], we find the bold head in front of us luminous,” said Ginsberg in response.”


Photo by Jill Krementz




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