Cafe Lehmitz, InDepth by Wayne Ford

In 1968 Swedish photographer Anders Petersen walked into Café Lehmitz, a bar located on the Reeperbahn, the red light district of Hamburg. Sitting down at a table with a beer, the photographer was soon engaged in conversation with a young man, his camera sitting on the table top, when he got up fro the table to use the menʼs room, Petersen left his camera on the table, and when he returned from he found the barʼs clientele
photographing one another.


Seizing the opportunity, Petersen asked if he too could photograph the bars clientele; a
mixture of sailors and dock workers, strippers, prostitutes and their pimps, along with poets and small time criminals; all of whom occupy the fringe of society, and signalling the beginning of a project that would occupy him on and off for the next two years.


In the raw and gritty black-and-white images, that have now become a signature of
Petersenʼs oeuvre, we experience in Café Lehmitz, not a voyeuristic view of this
atmospheric, smoke filled world, but a collaborative visual dairy. Petersen has fully
integrated himself into the Café Lehmitz family, with it becoming a new home.


Whilst this work is often graphic, even brutal at times, it is a very intimate and sensitive
work, with Kate Bush, curator of the Barbicanʼs ʻIn the Face of history: European
Photographers in the 20th Century,ʼ an exhibition which included the Petersenʼs series,
describing Café Lehmitz as a ʻZeigeist book,ʼ she continues, ‘It has a powerful identity and is totally of the moment. But Petersen is also important because he was very much a
participant in the social life he was documenting. His work has that integrity of engagement that great personal reportage requires.’

– Wayne Ford

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