Photographer Peter Hujar (1934-87) photographed all the most fabulous faces of the downtown art scene in the 1970s: Andy Warhol, Ethyl Eichelberger, Candy Darling (photographed on her death bed), Divine, David Wojnarowicz (his lover), John Waters, Divine, Edwin Denby, Susan Sontag, Fran Lebowitz, William Burroughs and more. Almost all of his subjects are gone now, but his glowing black-and-white portraits are still so immediate, so pulsing with life, you feel like you’re in your living room, just hangin’ with a group of old friends.
Writes biographer Stephen Koch:
“The Lower East Side between 1972 and 1985 – filled with artists, wannabe artists and hangers-on – was a community of the misbegotten gathered from every town in America and relocated in the mean streets between Broadway and the Bowery. That Downtown is forever gone. Time, gentrification, disease and death took their toll. But before it vanished, its extravagant cast sat for Peter Hujar’s camera – and is now alive again in front of our eyes.”
Candy Darling on her deathbed, 1973
Susan Sontag, 1975
John Heys in Lana Turner Dress #1,1979
Larry Ree, 1973
Fran Lebowitz [at Home in Morristown],1974
Andy Warhol, 1975
David Wojnarowicz, 1981
Peter Hujar (1934 – 1987) was born in New Jersey and moved to Manhattan as a teenager. He studied at the High School of Art and Design, and shortly thereafter worked as a photographer’s assistant. Throughout the 1960s he served as an apprentice for a number of commercial photographers and did a large amount of fashion work for Harpers Bazaar. A single monograph, the arresting Portraits in Life and Death with an introduction by Susan Sontag, was the only book of his work published during his lifetime. Hujar died of AIDS at the age of 53.
To mark the occasion of the current Hugar exhibition at The Paul Kassim Gallery, Steidl is publishing Lost Downtown, with contributions by Vince Aletti and Stephen Koch, Director of the Peter Hujar Archive. All pictures © The Peter Hujar Archive LLC.