Peter Hujar

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Peter Hujar
BornOctober 11, 1934
DiedNovember 26, 1987 (aged 53)
Resting placeGate of Heaven Cemetery, Valhalla, New York

Peter Hujar (October 11, 1934 – November 26, 1987) was an American photographer best known for his black and white portraits.

He has been recognized posthumously as "one of the major American photographers of the late twentieth century," and "among the greatest American photographers."[1] [2]

Early life[edit]

Hujar was born October 11, 1934 in Trenton, New Jersey to Rose Murphy, a waitress, who was abandoned by her husband during her pregnancy. Hujar was raised by his Ukrainian grandparents on their farm, where he spoke only Ukrainian until he started school. He remained on the farm with his grandparents until his grandmother's death in 1946. He moved to New York City to live with his mother and her second husband.[3] The household was abusive and in 1950, when Hujar was sixteen, he left home and began to live independently.[3]


Hujar received his first camera in 1947 [4] and in 1953 entered the School of Industrial Art where he expressed interest in being a photographer. He was fortunate to encounter an encouraging teacher, the poet Daisy Aldan, and following her advice, he became a commercial photography apprentice. Apart from classes in photography during high school, Hujar's entire photographic education and remarkable technical mastery was acquired in commercial photo studios. By 1957, when he was 23 years old, Hujar was making photographs now considered to be of museum quality. Early in 1967, Hujar was one of a select group of young photographers in a master class taught by Richard Avedon and Marvin Israel, where he met Alexey Brodovitch and Diane Arbus. [3]

Artistic career[edit]

In 1958, Hujar accompanied the artist Joseph Raphael on a Fulbright to Italy. In 1963, Hujar secured his own Fulbright and returned to Italy with Paul Thek, where they explored and photographed the Palermo catacombs, classic images featured in his 1975 book "Portraits in Life and Death." In 1964, Hujar returned to America and became a chief assistant in the studio of the commercial photographer Harold Krieger. Around this time, he also met Andy Warhol, posed for four of Warhol's three-minute "screen tests," and was included in the compilation film "The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys."

In 1967, Hujar quit his job in commercial photography and, at great financial sacrifice, began to pursue primarily his own work. What followed was a dramatic expansion of his output. In 1969, with his lover the political activist Jim Fouratt, he witnessed the Stonewall riots in the West Village. In 1973, he moved into a loft above The Eden Theater at 189 2nd Avenue, where he would live for the rest of his life. In 1975, Hujar published "Portraits in Life and Death," with an introduction by Susan Sontag. After a tepid reception, the book became a classic in American photography. The rest of the '70s was a period of prolific new work. In early 1981, Hujar met the writer, filmmaker, and artist David Wojnarowicz and after a brief period as Hujar's lover, Wojnarowicz became a protégé linked to Hujar for the remainder of the photographer's life. Hujar remained instrumental in all phases of Wojnarowicz's emergence as an important young artist. [5]

Despite its superlative quality, Hujar's work received only marginal public recognition during his lifetime, though in 1985, David Wojnarowicz arranged a large retrospective exhibition of Hujar's work at The Gracie Mansion Gallery, where attendance was crowded and enthusiastic.

Death from AIDS[edit]

In January 1987, Hujar was diagnosed with AIDS and died ten months later at the age of 53, on November 25, at Cabrini Medical Center in New York.[6]

Following Hujar's wishes, his funeral was held at Church of St. Joseph in Greenwich Village. Peter Hujar is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.[7]


The importance and artistic mastery of Hujar's work became recognized and canonical only after his death. In 2017, a major retrospective of his work, "The Speed of Life," originated at The Morgan Library in New York and toured widely in Europe and America, where it was widely and enthusiastically admired by both the public and by critics. Peter Hujar is now viewed as one of the greatest American photographers.

Since his death, Hujar's work has been acquired and exhibited in a large number of major museums in the United States, Japan, and Europe.

Selection of work in Institutions:


  • 2018: Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz, Photo España, Madrid, Spain
  • 2017: Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona, Spain; traveled to Fotomuseum den Hague, Den Haag, The Netherlands; The Morgan Library, New York, NY; Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH
  • 2016: Peter Hujar Lost Downtown, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2016: Peter Hujar: 21 Pictures, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2015: Peter Hujar: Night, Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
  • 2015: Danh Voh, Peter Hujar, Buchholz Galerie, Köln
  • 2014: Peter Hujar: Love & Lust, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2014: Peter Hujar, Maureen Paley Gallery, London, England
  • 2014: Peter Hujar: Works 1966-1985, Mai 36 Gallery,, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2013: Peter Hujar, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2012: "Peter Hujar", Fotografien, Kunstparterre e.V., Munich, Germany
  • 2011: Three Lives: Peter Hujar, Paul Thek, & David Wojnarowicz, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2011: Influential Friends, John McWhinny, New York, NY
  • 2010: Peter Hujar: Thek’s studio 1967, Alexander and Bonin, New York, NY; traveled to Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2009: Peter Hujar: Photographs 1956-1958, Matthew Marks Gallery,New York, NY
  • 2008: Peter Hujar: Second Avenue, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2008: Peter Hujar, Maureen Paley, London, England
  • 2008: Peter Hujar: Photography in the Seventies (The Outsiders), Marietta Neuss Projects, London, England
  • 2008: Peter Hujar, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, UK
  • 2007: Peter Hujar, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London,England
  • 2005: Peter Hujar, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY
  • 2005: Night, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York; traveled to Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA; Scalo Galerie, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2002: Portraits in Life and Death, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2002: Peter Hujar, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2000: Photographs 1980–1987, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY 1999
  • 2000: Peter Hujar, Galerie Berinson, Berlin, Germany
  • 2000: Peter Hujar, Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA
  • 2000: Hujar, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 2000: Some Sort of Grace: A Relationship, Peter Hujar with David Wojnarowicz, PPOW Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1998: Seminal Works, James Danziger Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1996: Peter Hujar: Das Photographische Werk, DAAD Galerie, Berlin, Germany
  • 1995: Peter Hujar. A Charm in Life and Death, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany
  • 1994: Peter Hujar: A Retrospective, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; traveled to Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland
  • 1992: Peter Hujar: Portraits of Animals, James Danziger Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1991: Peter Hujar's New York, James Danziger Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1990: Peter Hujar Fotografien, Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 1988: The Photographs of Peter Hujar, State University College of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
  • 1986: Recent Photographs, Gracie Mansion Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Galerie Jurka, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Galerie Nagel, Berlin, Germany
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany Peter Hujar, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • 1982: Peter Hujar: Fotos 1974–81, Galerie Jurka, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Forum Stadtpark, Graz, Austria Peter Hujar, Galerie Modern Art, Vienna, Austria
  • 1981: Recent Photographs, Robert Samuel Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1980: Peter Hujar, La Remise du Parc, Paris, France
  • 1979: Recent Photographs, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1978: Peter Hujar, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1977: New York Portraits, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1977: Peter Hujar, Catskill Center for Photography, Woodstock, NY
  • 1975: Portfolio by Peter Hujar, Foto Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1974: Peter Hujar, Floating Foundation of Photography, New York, NY


  • 2018: Breslin, David, and David W. Kiehl. David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night. Whitney Museum of American Art.
  • 2017: Hujar, Peter, and Joel Smith. Speed of Life. Fundación MAPFRE, Área De Cultura.
  • 2016: Aletti, Vince. Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown. Steidl.
  • 2014: Hujar, Peter, et al. Peter Hujar: Love & Lust. Fraenkel Gallery.
  • 2013: Fusi, Lorenzo, Peter Hujar, et al. Changing Difference: Queer Politics and Shifting Identities: Peter Hujar, Mark Morrisroe, Jack Smith. Milan, Italy: Silvana Editorial.
  • 2009: Hujar, Peter and Stephen Koch. Peter Hujar Photographs 1956-1958. New York, NY: Mathew Marks Gallery.
  • 2006: Subterranean Monuments: Burckhardt, Johnson, Hujar. Poughkeepsie, NY: Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College.
  • 2005: Bentley, Kyle. Peter Hujar. Artforum International 44 (2005): 116.
  • 2005: Nickas, Bob and Peter Hujar. Peter Hujar: Night. New York: Matthew Marks Gallery; San Francisco, CA: Fraenkel Gallery.
  • 2002: Hujar, Peter and Klaus Kertess. Peter Hujar: Animals and Nudes. Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms Publishers.
  • 1999: Stephen Daiter Gallery and Peter Hujar. Peter Hujar, Intimate Survey. Chicago, IL: Stephen Daiter Galery.
  • 1994: Stahel, Urs, Hripsimé Visser, Max Kozloff, and Peter Hujar. Peter Hujar: A Retrospective. Zurich, Switzerland: Scalo Publishers.
  • 1990: Hujar, Peter, Stephen Koch, and Thomas W Sokolowski. Peter Hujar. New York, NY: Grey Art Gallery & Study Center, New York University.
  • 1976: Hujar, Peter. Portraits in Life and Death. New York, NY: Da Capo Press.


  1. ^ Holland Cotter. The New York Times, February 8, 2018.
  2. ^ Peter Schjeldahl. "The New Yorker", February 5, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Carr, Cynthia (2012). Fire in the belly : the life and times of David Wojnarowicz (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Bloomsbury. p. 181. ISBN 978-1596915336.
  4. ^ "Press release: PETER HUJAR". Maureen Paley. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ Carr, Cynthia (2012). Fire in the belly : the life and times of David Wojnarowicz (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Bloomsbury. p. 182. ISBN 978-1596915336.
  6. ^ "The New York Times : Peter Hujar Dies at 53; Made Photo Portraits". November 28, 1987.
  7. ^ Carr, Cynthia (2012). Fire in the belly : the life and times of David Wojnarowicz (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Bloomsbury. p. 379. ISBN 978-1596915336.

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