- Peter Hujar 1934–1987
- Photograph, inkjet print on paper
- Image: 375 × 375 mm
- Purchased with funds provided by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of Abigail Baratta, Michael Corman and Kevin Fink, John and Jill Garcia, Amy Gold, Gregory Miller, Carolin Scharpff-Striebich, Beth Swofford and Christen and Derek Wilson 2019
Self-Portrait (With a String Around His Neck) 1980 is a black and white self-portrait photograph by the American photographer Peter Hujar. It is one of a group of black and white portraits by Hujar in Tate’s collection (see Tate P82408–P82412). He is depicted in half-length, candidly facing the viewer. His torso is naked and he is wearing only a thin string around his neck; his left arm is resting on the back of a chair and his hands are clasped. Due to the low camera angle his hands appear particularly large and, together with the artist’s face, form the main focus of the composition.
Hujar was a familiar figure in the cultural world of downtown New York during the 1970s and 1980s and was involved with different scenes such as visual art, punk music, performance and political activism. He died in 1987 from an AIDS-related illness, like so many of his contemporaries. His intimate and informally staged portraits of renowned artists and writers, as well as of many anonymous New Yorkers, remain as a document of the circles he moved in at a critical time in the history of New York’s counterculture. Hujar also carried out a photographic study of the mummified figures in the ancient catacombs in the Sicilian capital of Palermo and a number of these were published, with a preface by the American writer Susan Sontag, alongside a selection of his New York photographs in his book Portraits in Life and Death in 1976.
This print is a posthumous estate print made by Hujar’s friend and protégé Gary Schneider in an edition of ten, of which this is number four. Hujar entrusted some of his printing to Schneider during his lifetime and approved the concept of posthumous editions as long as Schneider did the printing.
Peter Hujar. Speed of Life, exhibition catalogue, Fundacion Mapfre, Barcelona, 27 January–30 April 2017, Fotomuseum The Hague, 1 July–15 October 2017, The Morgan Library & Museum, 26 January–20 May 2018, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, California, 11 July–7 October 2018.
Peter Schjeldahl, ‘The Bohemian Rhapsody of Peter Hujar. Photographs at the Crossroads of High Art and Low Life’, The New Yorker, 5 February 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/05/the-bohemian-rhapsody-of-peter-hujar, accessed 10 April 2018.
Edward M. Gómez, ‘Peter Hujar’s Elegy for New York City in the 1980s’, Hyperallergic, 24 February 2018, https://hyperallergic.com/428018/peter-hujar-speed-of-life-morgan-library-and-museum/, accessed 10 April 2018.
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