Peter Hujar: Speed of Life

Texts by Joel Smith, Philip Gefter, Steve Turtell, and Martha Scott Burton
Copublished by Aperture and Fundación MAPFRE

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9 ¾ x 11 ¼ in. 248 pages, 160 images Hardcover 978-1-59711-414-1 April 2017

Peter Hujar was a leading figure of the downtown New York scene of the 1970s and ’80s. He is most well-known for his portraits of New York City’s artists, musicians, writers, and performers, which feature characters such as Susan Sontag, William S. Burroughs, David Wojnarowicz, and Andy Warhol, and was admired for his completely uncompromising attitude toward work and life. Hujar was a consummate technician, and his portraits of people, animals, and landscapes, with their exquisite black-and-white tonalities, were extremely influential. Underappreciated during his lifetime, Hujar is now a revered icon of the lost downtown art scene, and his photographs are held in permanent collections around the world. Over 160 photographs are gathered in Peter Hujar: Speed of Life. Published alongside a major touring exhibition, this collection presents Hujar’s famous portraiture as well as his lesser-known projects. Accompanied by texts by Joel Smith, Philip Gefter and Steve Turtell, this survey provides a thorough history of Hujar’s life and artistic practice.


Peter Hujar died of AIDS in 1987, leaving behind a complex and profound body of photographs. A leading figure in the cultural scene in downtown New York in the 1970s and ’80s, Hujar was admired for his portraits of people, animals, and landscapes. Since his death his work has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland, and he is included in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.


Joel Smith (text) is the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.


Philip Gefter (text) is the author of Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe (2014), a biography of Sam Wagstaff, and Photography After Frank (Aperture, 2009), a book of essays about photography. He produced the 2011 documentary Bill Cunningham New York. Gefter was on staff at the New York Times for fifteen years, where he wrote regularly about photography. He is currently at work on a biography of Richard Avedon.


Steve Turtell (text) is a poet and the author of Heroes and Householders (2009) and Letter to Frank O’Hara (2011), which won the 2010 ReBound Chapbook Prize given by Seven Kitchens Press. He is currently working on Peter Hujar: Invisible Master.


Martha Scott Burton (text) is Curatorial Assistant at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York and the founder and editor of Turtledove Press.

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