“The people at the Café Lehmitz had a presence and a sincerity that I myself lacked. It was okay to be desperate, to be tender, to sit all alone or share the company of others. There was a great warmth and tolerance in this destitute setting!”

“During the most acute and intense moments of emotional release, the camera protects you. Yet, there is so much wordliness, vulnerability, and intimacy in such frankness that you are not able to shield yourself from it anyway.”

Anders Petersen was born in 1944 in Stockholm. In 1966–1968, he studied photography under Christer Strömholm at his famous Fotoskolan. Petersen gained international recognition in 1978 after the publication of his book Café Lehmitz.

Café Lehmitz, a bar in Hamburg in the vicinity of the Reeperbahn, was a meeting point for late night revellers and and port workers, sailors and salesmen, prostitutes and visitors of the red-light district. Anders Petersen was 18 years old when he first visited Café Lehmitz. Six years later, he returned to Hamburg as a photographer and plunged into the milieu of the café’s regulars, this immersion resulting in a photographic series. His photographs, which were first published in book form in 1978, have become classics of subjective photography. The series reminds a family album capturing various encounters with people in a habitual setting. The photographer lives among them, making people trust him and consider him a friend. This trust and  solidarity evident in the images evoke compassion while preventing voyeurism or false pity arising vis-a-vis a milieu generally referred to as “asocial.” The “other” world of Café Lehmitz becomes visible as a lively community with its own self-image and dignity.

Café Lehmitz was the first of the 25 books published by the photographer. Works by Anders Petersen are held in the collections of MoMA (New York), MACRO (Rome), the National Library of France and Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), the Hasselblad Center (Gothenburg), Museum Folkwang (Essen), the National Museum of Photography at the Royal Danish Library, the Winterthur Museum of Photography (Switzerland), and the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Petersen’s works are also shown at the Jean-Kenta Gauthier’s gallery in Paris.

The exhibition Café Lehmitz is put together through the joint efforts of Anders Petersen and the art director of the Novosibirsk International Biennale of Contemporary Photography Andrey Martynov. Some of the photographs are exhibited for the first time. The exhibition is organized with the support of the Swedish Institute and the Embassy of Sweden in the Russian Federation.

Curator Angie Åström