Collection in Focus: Peter Hujar

Dive deep into the archive of the iconic photographer Peter Hujar with Olivia McCall, our Edith Gowin Curatorial Fellow of Photography.

Ten years ago, the Morgan’s Department of Photography made a landmark acquisition: Peter Hujar’s papers, 100 photographic prints, and 5,783 black-and-white contact sheets. The contact sheets are of great importance: they span the artist’s career from 1955 until his death of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1987, and index nearly every black-and-white exposure that he made. These objects occupy a liminal space between archive and art object; they are process documents that gave Hujar his first glance at each frame on a roll of film. Many of them bear his editing marks, written in varying colors of oil pencil, that indicate a preferred frame or intended cropping of a print. Sometimes, one frame from the sheet has been cut out, perhaps to mail to the subject depicted, or to tack up on his own darkroom wall. Lending depth to Hujar’s oeuvre beyond the finished prints, his contact sheets are rich in narratives and lend tremendous insight into his creative process.

Video by SandenWolff