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John Penley Photographs Collection now on Flickr!


ACT UP demonstration at City Hall, 1991. Exhibit # 013. [NP268-]

This week I wanted to draw your attention to an online exhibit on Flickr with images drawn from the John Penley Photographs Collection at the Tamiment Library.


The High Times Soul Assassins Band playing at the “Free the Weed” rally at Washington Square Park, 1989. (L to R: Abby, Kimona 117, and Steve Hager. Hager is a longtime editor of High Times magazine.) Exhibit # 005. [NP268]


Man who rents horses, Puerto Escondido, Mexico, 1990. Exhibit #35. [NP268_31?]

The collection came to Tamiment last year from John Penley, a photographer and grassroots political activist associated with the squatters’ rights movement and housing protests of the 1980s and 1990s in New York City’s East Village and Lower East Side. He began photographing as part of an effort to document the demonstrations, protests, and other political actions in which he took part, and in the process became a photo-journalist. Hundreds of Penley’s photographs have appeared in publications including the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the New York Times, New York and Long Island Newsday, New York Magazine, The Villager, High Times Magazine, The Guardian, Art In America, WW 3 Illustrated, The Shadow, the East Village Eye, and many small political publications. They have also been distributed through press services such as United Press International and the Associated Press.

Beginning in the mid-1990s he spent a decade covering the New York’s Lower East Side as a beat photographer for the New York Times, documenting protests and gentrification in the neighborhood. The thousands of images in his collection also record protests by AIDS activists, as well as artist and writer residents of the Lower East Side such as Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, Keith Haring, and Karen Finley. Other notables for whom there are images in the collection include Martin Sheen, Philip Berrigan, Timothy Leary, and Ramsey Clark. Penley also documented his travels to Mexico and to Nicaragua (the latter during the conflict between the Sandinista government and the “contras”) during the 1980s.

Please note that these images are provided for reference purposes only. Mr. Penley currently owns the copyright to the images, which will eventually be transferred to New York University.
While you’re there, check out the rest of Tamiment’s Flickr exhibits. There’s a lot of great material online from the Communist Party of the USA, Anarchist organizations, Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and even the history of the Tamiment Library itself.

32 thoughts on “John Penley Photographs Collection now on Flickr!”

  1. JOHN PENLEY says:


  2. Hillel Arnold says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Mr. Penley, and glad you mentioned where people can see more of your pictures. For those of you playing along at home, his photoblog is here and the EV Grieve post is here

  3. John penley says:

    The person in the Fourth Annual Squatters Mayday 4-5 is LES poet Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs

  4. John Penley says:

    The man in the Beat Poets Reunion photo is Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg’s long time love and not Herbert Hunke.

  5. John Penley says:

    People have been telling me that they have registered with Flickr to comment or identify people but even after they register they are unable to comment. Same thing happened to me. Could you fix this or put up a link to this page that shows up with each photo so people could easily put up a comment. Thanks.

  6. bloomdude says:

    That’s the High Times Soul Assassins band in the Free the Weed rally pic: (l to r) Abby, Kimona 117 and Steve Hager

  7. John Penley says:

    Steve Hager with the band Soul Assassins in the photo on this page is the longtime editor of High Times Magazine.

  8. Patti Taylor says:

    I picked up my first book of “Beat” poetry when I was in Jr. High….by Corso…still have it with pages filled with my own remarks…and, I worked with people living with HIV/AIDS for over 20 years and was a member of “ACT UP”…these few photos certainly brought back a lot of memories….
    love and peace,

  9. Jessica Farrell says:

    Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your world. These provocative images are a haunting reflection of the human experience, a glimpse into the passionate world that ignites change. As a viewer, I was simultaneously a voyeur and a combatant in a struggle that is the past, present and future of the people. Beautiful work!

  10. michael casey says:

    some really great photos…..ty for being there to document all of those important times…

  11. John Penley says:

    My photo publications do not include the Village Voice.I got treated like crap by the Voice Photo editors. Here they are/ The New York Daily News/ The New York Post/ The New York Times/ New York and Long Island Newsday/ New York Magazine / The Villager Newspaper/ Associated Press/ United Press International/ High Times Magazine/ The Guardian/ Art In America Magazine/ WW 3 Illustrated / The Shadow/ The East Village Eye and many small political publications too numerous to mention.I had only 2 photos published in the Washington Post

  12. Melanie says:

    I remember the Polish man dressed in the black garbage bags Exhibit #43 [NP268_053].He preferred to live on the street mainly on E. 7th Street off Ave. A after his wife left him for another man. He was nice and kind. Unfortunately some young punks set him on fire one night and he died. RIP nice Polish man. You are missed.

  13. Mountain Gypsy says:

    wonderful photos of times and events that should remain always a part of who we are. I cannot wait to see the rest of your collection as I am very interested in the counter-culture movement and the impact it has had not only then but is having again now as we look back at our past as a way to bring about change for a new tomorrow.

  14. Laurette LaLiberte says:

    Amazing photos John

  15. emma goldman says:

    Fantastic photos they are John!!!!

  16. g.ray says:

    This collection of photographs is an accurate time capsule into a world that has often been misrepresented and maligned. These expressive faces give their struggle the personal relevance that has been lacking for years. Thank you John Penley for your amazing eye & creative work.

  17. John Penley says:

    Please be advised that I have given the Keith Haring Foundation permission to work something out with Tamiment Library to get a copy of the Keith Haring slide that was taken at an Act Up protest at city hall. They have my permission to use it in any way they want. I also suggested to them that they might want to work with the Library to do a Keith Haring exhibit. I have shut down my Facebook Page and have gone Underground. Fight the Power before they destroy the Planet. Revolution is the only solution ! John Penley

  18. Corine Fairbanks says:

    I have been a fan of Allen Ginsburg and William Burroughs- would love to see those photos…

  19. john penley says:

    There are more rare photos of Ginsberg et al but especially Ginsberg in Tompkins Square Park and marching against the first Gulf war wearing an American flag top hat in the archive.I am very poor and moving around so I cannot afford to devote the time to finish archiving the collection. Tamiment please take note that I have been in contact with the American Indian Movement and they are interested in talking to Dr. Nash about setting up an archive for AIM at Tamiment.Please contact the AIM Santa Barbara Facebook page or they will be in contact with the Library. As you can see putting my photo archive in Tamiment has already expanded the benefits of having it to other beneficial contacts for Tamiment like The Keith Haring Foundation and The American Indian Movement. The addition of an American Indian Movement archive to Tamiment would be a priceless addition of immense cultural and historic value both to the library and to the Native American people and the general public. I hope the library appreciates my work in this respect and will look into the possibility of setting up an AIM archive as soon as possible.

  20. John penley says:

    Tuli Kupferberg recently died follow link to EV Grieve post

  21. Donna G. Ellaby says:

    John Penley is an outstanding photojournalist who has chronicled so many of the community struggles on the Lower East Side. His body of work deserves to be archived because of its invaluable contribution to the history of the affordable housing movement.

  22. rob hollander says:

    Great photographs. Penley, as an insider and participant and leader of resistance movements in the LES, is able to provide an often unique resource at the heart of so many resistance movements. But the photos really need to be fully documented, tagged and captioned — who, where, when and doing what.

  23. John Penley says:

    Follow this link to The Villager column on this exhibit This will be the last post by me here. I hope that you will make the corrections that I have posted in comments. I am glad the archive is here and one day I hope the historical value of it will be appreciated. I continue struggling to survive in severe poverty and have given up on any hope that this exhibit will do anything to alleviate my situation.

  24. Iris Springflower says:

    GREAT work John. Excellent. Take Care, Iris

  25. John Penley says:

    I and a group of Anti-Police State Activists organized this new type of protest protest at FBI HQ in Washington DC on Oct. 2 2010

  26. John Penley says:

    Squatter godfather and political activist Michael Shenker recently died follow the link to see NY Times story on him The NY Times used a photo that I took of Michael for this story. There are many, many photos of Michael Shenker in my photo archive. It is too bad the NY Times had to take my photo of Michael off of a NY Magazine article on Google Books instead of Tamiment library because the Library has decided my work is not valueable enough to spend a minute amount of money to pay me to archive the photos. There are hundreds of photos of Michael Shenker in my archive. It is terrible that people can not access these photos of him as many people would like to see them now.

  27. Jerry Levy says:

    Why are there only 89 out of approx. 30,000 pictures posted? It is in keeping with the history and mission of the Tamiment Institute to make available to the public the fullest possible record of the important and historic events which are photo-documented by Mr. Penley. Surely NYU has a few more dollars in its budget to scan the rest of the Penley collection!

  28. John Penley says:

    I have made many comments about corrections and misinformation on this exhibit and some of the stuff is showing up on the internet and in the press. This is a library and I would think you would like to get things corrected like the fact that I was never published by the Village Voice. I gave you a list of publications months ago. Also the NYU Local said I was arrested for protesting at a Nuclear Power Plant which they got here. The Savannah River Plant is a Nuclear Weapons Plant. They make all the weapons grade plutonium for nuclear weapons there and produce no power whatsoever. Please make the corrections I suggested in comments. If this were your life on this exhibit you would expect the same. This misinformation is spreading and I put up correction comments months ago and nothing has been done.

  29. John Penley says:

    I bet Tamiment could get a grant to pay me to archive more of my collection from the Warhol Foundation If you would only take the time to put in an application for one. Especially since there are lots of ACT UP and LES Artists who fought for Aids research and are now dead in the collection. Mention the link to the Keith Haring foundation if you do it , but you probably won’t.

  30. John Penley says:

    The man in exhibit 54 is Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs.

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