Philip Gefter is the author of Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe, for which he received the 2014 Marfield Prize. He is currently at work on the biography of Richard Avedon. (January 2018)


Peter Hujar’s Downtown

Peter Hujar: Gary Schneider in Contortion (2), 1979

Peter Hujar’s photographic subjects were not specimens of American male perfection; his nude figures were idiosyncratic yet erotic. In one of his signature nude studies, Bruce de Ste. Croix (1976), the subject is seated in a chair, contemplating his erection. This portrait represents Hujar’s conscious attempt to reintroduce male genitalia into Western art, and he was taking it a step further: the erection had never before been photographed with such aesthetic regard.