Philip Gefter

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Philip Gefter
A. Philip Gefter.jpg
Alma materPratt Institute
SpouseRichard Press

Philip Gefter is an American author and photography critic.[1] He wrote the biography of Sam Wagstaff, Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe,[2] for which he received the 2014 Marfield Prize, the national award for arts writing. He is also the author of George Dureau: The Photographs, and Photography After Frank, a book of essays published by Aperture in 2009. He was on staff at The New York Times for over fifteen years, where he wrote regularly about photography. He produced the 2011 documentary film, Bill Cunningham New York.


Gefter received a fine arts degree from the Pratt Institute in painting and photography.[3] Upon graduation, he took a job as a picture researcher in the Time-Life Picture Collection,[citation needed] which exposed him to the photographs of Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, and Alfred Eisenstaedt, among other photographers. Following that, he took a job at Aperture Foundation, where, as assistant editor, he worked on the Aperture History of Photography series and on publications such as Edward Weston: Nudes; America and Lewis Hine; and the re-publication of Robert Frank's The Americans.

In 1982, Henry Geldzahler, then commissioner of cultural affairs for the city of New York, appointed him photography advisor to the Department of Cultural Affairs, where he put together a program of public exhibitions.[citation needed]

In 2011, he and Richard Press (who were married in 2008) released their feature-length documentary film Bill Cunningham New York, about The New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. The film received nominations for Best Documentary from The Directors' Guild of America; the Producers Guild of America; and the Independent Spirit Awards.[citation needed] In 2013, it was acquired by the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art for its permanent collection.[citation needed]

In 2011, Gefter received a Museum Scholar residency at the Getty Research Institute,[4] the Getty Center, in Los Angeles, to work on a biography of Sam Wagstaff, the curator, collector, and patron of Robert Mapplethorpe, for the publisher W. W. Norton/Liveright, a project he began in 2009.

In 2002, he and Press commissioned the architect, Michael Bell, to build a house for them in New York State's Hudson Valley. The Gefter-Press House,[5] completed in 2007, is included in the book, American Masterworks: Houses of the Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries (Rizzoli), by the architectural historian, Kenneth Frampton.

In 2007, Gefter became a founding editorial advisor to Dear Dave magazine.

Gay rights[edit]

Beginning in the early 1970s, Gefter was active in the gay rights movement, in the Gay Activists Alliance; Gay Academic Union; and Gay Media Coalition.[citation needed] He coauthored and was a subject of a book about his same-sex relationship, Lovers: The Story of Two Men (Avon, 1979). In 1981, he was a founding member of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, formed in Larry Kramer's living room when the earliest cases of HIV/AIDS (still then yet to be named) were reported. In 1991, he was a founding member of the New York chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, serving as chapter president from 1993 to 1995.[citation needed]


Publications by Gefter[edit]

  • Photography After Frank (New York: Aperture, 2009) ISBN 978-1597110952
  • Wagstaff: Before And After Mapplethorpe (New York: Liveright, 2014) ISBN 978-0871404374
  • George Dureau: The Photographs (New York: Aperture, 2016) ISBN 978-1597112840

Publications with others[edit]

Publications with contributions by Gefter[edit]


  • 2014: Marfield Prize for Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe[6]



  1. ^ Kenneth Baker, Chronicle Art Critic (2009-06-02). "Looking in on photographer Robert Frank". Retrieved 2009-09-12.
  2. ^ "Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe by Philip Gefter, book review". The Independent. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  3. ^ "Photography". Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  4. ^ "Scholar Year 2011/2012 (Getty Research Institute)". Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  5. ^ "House of the week: the Gefter-Press House in Upstate New York". The Spaces. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  6. ^