Here, a selection of images from LIFE staff photographer John Loengard’s newest book, Age of Silver, along with Loengard’s own insightful, fond reflections on his colleagues and his craft.
Pictured: Loengard made this portrait of Alan Ginsberg for LIFE at the University of Kansas in 1966.
“At the time,” Loengard says, “neither LIFE nor I knew that Ginsberg was a photographer of considerable purpose.” Indeed, in the 1990s, Ginsberg described his 40 years’ worth of snapshots as being akin to “written journals I’d kept — four decades of epiphanous moments that I’ve noticed.”
Over fifty years ago, in October, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti went on trial for the publication of Ginsberg’s poem Howl. This was a landmark poem for First Amendment rights, and ironically enough, although it was on trial to ban it on charges of obscenity, the poem received a lot of publicity and made it a cultural phenomenon - the opposite of what the plaintiff wanted. Perhaps if it hadn’t gone on trial… it never would have been publicized.
After the publication of the poem by fellow Beat Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Books, the poem increased in popularity for its raw imagery, openly sexual content, and pronouncements of a cultural revolution. But in March of 1957, 520 copies of the poem were seized and Ferlinghetti was arrested on obscenity charges.
The trial caught headlines across the country, which included articles in both Time and Life magazines. Hearing the case was Judge Clayton Horn, who was a known conservative judge, which made for even greater tension in which direction the verdict would fall. Ferlinghetti was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and was defended by Jake Ehrlich, who was famous for defending celebrities in a number of separate cases.