Peter Hujar

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Peter Hujar
BornOctober 11, 1934
Trenton, New Jersey, United States
DiedNovember 26, 1987 (aged 53)
New York City, New York, United States
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.[1][2][3][4]

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. He 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.[5] The household was abusive, and in 1950, when Hujar was 16, he left home and began to live independently.[5]


Hujar received his first camera in 1947[6] 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 (1923-2001), and following her advice, he became a commercial photography apprentice. Apart from classes in photography during high school, Hujar's photographic education and technical mastery was acquired in commercial photo studios. By 1957, when he was 23 years old, he was making photographs now considered to be of museum quality. Early in 1967, he 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.[5]

Artistic career[edit]

In 1958, Hujar accompanied the artist Joseph Raphael on a Fulbright to Italy. In 1963, he secured his own Fulbright and returned to Italy with Paul Thek, where they explored and photographed the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, 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 lived 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 1970s was a period of prolific 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.[7]

Hujar's work received only marginal public recognition during his lifetime.

Death from AIDS[edit]

In January 1987, Hujar was diagnosed with AIDS. He died 10 months later at the age of 53 on November 25 at Cabrini Medical Center in New York.[8]

His funeral was held at Church of St. Joseph in Greenwich Village and he was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.[9]


Hujar's work is held in the following collections:


  • 1974: Peter Hujar, Floating Foundation of Photography, New York City
  • 1975: Portfolio by Peter Hujar, Foto Gallery, New York City
  • 1977: Peter Hujar, Catskill Center for Photography, Woodstock, NY
  • 1977: New York Portraits, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York City
  • 1978: Peter Hujar, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York City
  • 1979: Recent Photographs, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York City
  • 1980: Peter Hujar, La Remise du Parc, Paris
  • 1981: Recent Photographs, Robert Samuel Gallery, New York City
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Forum Stadtpark, Graz, Austria Peter Hujar, Galerie Modern Art, Vienna, Austria
  • 1982: Peter Hujar: Fotos 1974–81, Galerie Jurka, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany Peter Hujar, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Galerie Nagel, Berlin, Germany
  • 1982: Peter Hujar, Galerie Jurka, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 1986: Recent Photographs, Gracie Mansion Gallery, New York City
  • 1988: The Photographs of Peter Hujar, State University College of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
  • 1990: Peter Hujar Fotografien, Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 1991: Peter Hujar's New York, James Danziger Gallery, New York City
  • 1992: Peter Hujar: Portraits of Animals, James Danziger Gallery, New York City
  • 1994: Peter Hujar: A Retrospective, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands; traveled to Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland
  • 1995: Peter Hujar. A Charm in Life and Death, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany
  • 1996: Peter Hujar: Das Photographische Werk, DAAD Galerie, Berlin, Germany
  • 1998: Seminal Works, James Danziger Gallery, New York City
  • 2000: Some Sort of Grace: A Relationship, Peter Hujar with David Wojnarowicz, PPOW Gallery, New York City
  • 2000: Hujar, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 2000: Peter Hujar, Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA
  • 2000: Peter Hujar, Galerie Berinson, Berlin, Germany
  • 2000: Photographs 1980–1987, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York City, 1999
  • 2002: Peter Hujar, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2002: Portraits in Life and Death, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York City
  • 2005: Night, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York; traveled to Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA; Scalo Galerie, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2005: Peter Hujar, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY
  • 2007: Peter Hujar, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
  • 2008: Peter Hujar, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, UK
  • 2008: Peter Hujar: Photography in the Seventies (The Outsiders), Marietta Neuss Projects, London
  • 2008: Peter Hujar, Maureen Paley, London
  • 2008: Peter Hujar: Second Avenue, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York City
  • 2009: Peter Hujar: Photographs 1956-1958, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York City
  • 2010: Peter Hujar: Thek’s studio 1967, Alexander and Bonin, New York City; traveled to Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2011: Influential Friends, John McWhinny, New York City
  • 2011: Three Lives: Peter Hujar, Paul Thek, & David Wojnarowicz, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York City
  • 2012: "Peter Hujar", Fotografien, Kunstparterre e.V., Munich, Germany
  • 2013: Peter Hujar, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York City
  • 2014: Peter Hujar: Works 1966-1985, Mai 36 Gallery,, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2014: Peter Hujar, Maureen Paley Gallery, London
  • 2014: Peter Hujar: Love & Lust, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2015: Danh Voh, Peter Hujar, Buchholz Galerie, Köln
  • 2015: Peter Hujar: Night, Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
  • 2016: Peter Hujar: 21 Pictures, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2016: Peter Hujar Lost Downtown, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City
  • 2017–2018: Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, Fundación Mapfre, Barcelona, Spain; traveled to Fotomuseum den Hague, Den Haag, The Netherlands; Morgan Library & Museum, New York City;[1] Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH
  • 2019: Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris


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


  1. ^ a b c Cotter, Holland (8 February 2018). "He Made Them Glow: A Maverick's Portraits Live On". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-15 – via
  2. ^ a b Schjeldahl, Peter (29 January 2018). "The Bohemian Rhapsody of Peter Hujar". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-12-15 – via
  3. ^ Symonds, Alexandria (2 February 2016). "The Most Exacting Photographer in Downtown '70s New York". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-15 – via
  4. ^ Bowcock, Simon (14 October 2016). "Peter Hujar: the photographer who defined downtown New York". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-12-15 – via
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Press release: PETER HUJAR". Maureen Paley. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "The New York Times : Peter Hujar Dies at 53; Made Photo Portraits". November 28, 1987.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Peter Hujar". The Art Institute of Chicago.
  11. ^ "CMOA Collection".
  12. ^ "Harvard Art Museums".
  13. ^ "Peter Hujar (American, 1934 - 1987) (Getty Museum)". The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles.
  14. ^ "Peter Hujar: Speed of Life". The Morgan Library & Museum. January 11, 2017.
  15. ^ "Peter Hujar | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art.
  16. ^ "Works – Peter Hujar – Artists/Makers – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art".
  17. ^ "Peter Hujar · SFMOMA".
  18. ^ "Peter Hujar".
  19. ^ "Peter Hujar".
  20. ^ "Peter Hujar".
  21. ^ "Untitled | Yale University Art Gallery".

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