We can be ashamed and we can feel shame for someone who lacks shame. The essay argues that Peter Hujar’s photography explores what it means to feel a truly shameless shamelessness. Each of Hujar’s three major bodies of work—his portraits, nudes, and animal pictures—seeks in different ways to overcome what might be otherwise embarrassing about their respective genres: a portrait that is too candid, a nude that verges on naked, and, more subtly, animals that resist anthropomorphism, either as pets or as human doppelgängers. I contend that Hujar’s unflinching and candid portrayals make the viewer acutely aware of his or her impulse to be or not to be embarrassed for themselves and/or for the artist’s sitters. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s and Silvan Tomkins’s idea that shame is something through which identity is constituted provides the essay’s theoretical foundation.
"Peter Hujar: Shamelessness Without Shame,"
Criticism: Vol. 63:
4, Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol63/iss4/1