This modest volume (just 15 photographs) of Peter Hujar’s portraits of his Lower East Side celebrity friends is a soft-spoken, unpretentious gem.
The book was a perfect companion to my Sunday morning cup of tea.
Peter’s portraits capture his group of friends in a very gentle manner. Many of the personalities are known for being, – shall we say – over the top. Not here. Peter’s photos show their quiet side. It is as if Peter said “relax, let me take a couple of quick shots”.
Even the heartbreaking, minimally staged portrait of Candy Darling near death, in full makeup, has a hushed quality.
The understated design by Duncan Whyte compliments perfectly the tranquil quality of Peter’s portraits.
In a time when so many photo books are calculated to shock, it is refreshing to have this book to turn to.
From the Steidl website:
It’s a vanished world, and Peter Hujar was right there in it. 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. Nothing but their talent, their flamboyance, their rank gender-bending mockery and their arch irony supported them. Some made their names. Many came to grief. A few made art. In those days, the gutted streets of the Lower East Side looked like a war zone. Everyone lived and worked on the extreme outer margins of money and art, penniless and unknown. As a community, Downtown was a counterstatement to the rich New York of the banks, museums, media, corporations … and the art world itself.
That Downtown is forever gone. Time, gentrification, disease and death have taken their toll and turned this vibrant epoch into a chapter of art history. But before it vanished, its extravagant cast sat for Peter Hujar’s camera — and is now alive again in front of our eyes.
Featured among others: Joe Brainard, William Burroughs, Remy Charlip, Edwin Denby, Divine, Ray Johnson, Fran Lebowitz, Charles Ludlum, Susan Sontag, Paul Thek, John Waters, Robert Wilson, David Wojnarowicz.
by Peter Hujar
40 pages, 20 images
29.5 x 32 cm
1. Edition 09/2016