The primary figure is photographed from the perspective of his crossed legs, folded in on themselves and creating a triangle through which the viewer is invited to see just a bit of a face and the hazy nondescript buildings where the city begins. Scholar Douglas Crimp has suggested that cruising characterizes all of Hujar’s photographs of the urban landscape, including images without people. I agree. But in this photograph, it is not so much about the people who may be lurking just out of the camera’s view of empty lots, but the architectural character of the body that melds into the surroundings. Returning to the legs that serve as the central object and the frame of the image, I can imagine desire but also curiosity. Why did Hujar decide to look through the legs? Did he see this perspective while strolling the boardwalk? What would happen if the figure shifted his balance and changed the way these two bent limbs folded into each other? What other shapes could Hujar see or make happen? The figure becomes another part of the receding Lower Manhattan that Hujar was so set on recording.
Joseph Jay Sosa
Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Bowdoin College
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