A master portraitist and documentarian whose work presaged artists such as Nan Goldin and Mark Morrisroe, Peter Hujar was one of the pre-eminent photographers of the late-twentieth century. A friend and chronicler of many of the luminaries around him during the 1970s and ‘80s, Hujar captured the vibrant queer social scene of New York, Warhol’s factory, William Burroughs’s protopunk clique, and rebellious upstarts such as Paul Thek, John Waters, and David Wojnarowicz. Hujar’s photographs were shot and developed to emphasize bright whites and dark blacks, with a jewel-like gamut of silver tones in between. Likewise, his subjects were recorded in a manner that is brutally honest, but also sympathetic and revealing. One of Hujar’s most famous portraits, Candy Darling on Her Deathbed (1974), depicts the superstar doyen of the Factory shortly before her death from lymphoma. She lounges across a hospital bed, melancholic but alluring, surrounded by a dark room brightened only by white chrysanthemums and a bouquet of roses. Hujar himself died of AIDS-related complications in 1987.
Hujar was largely underappreciated during his lifetime, but has since gained wide recognition for his work and influence among subsequent generations. He has been given posthumous retrospectives at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Arts, MoMA PS1, and Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, among others.