Thanks to all who have contributed to the discussion on Anders Petersen’s ‘Cafe Lehmitz’. It has been a really busy month! We have compiled an archive of the posts below for future reference and will also be listed under the reading list page.
The following is a personal reflection from Matt Johnston on his first viewing of Cafe Lehmitz, if you have a reflection you would like to add, then do so in the comments below or email email@example.com
I should have first seen Cafe Lehmitz back at university when my tutor suggest I see Petersen’s view of a single beer house in Hamburg for inspiration. I have to confess i didn’t see it then (sorry Jonathan!) as I was quickly distracted by the bright lights, ball parks and endless roads of American photography.
And so my first viewing of ‘Lehmitz’ was only a month ago. The raw power of the striking, rich-black images grabbed me straight away, but it was the refreshingly honest and simple premise of the story that most appealed. I loved the idea I was seeing someone who first came as a visitor and soon became embraced by the seemingly dysfunctional family he depicted.
I would never had made the images Petersen made here, and I don’t know many photographers who would have. The technical skill can be taught, but the way he went about gaining trust, meeting people and producing this ‘family album’ is something only Petersen knows.
Thanks to Stans Banos of ‘Reciprocity Failure‘ who commented this week on the technical proficiency Petersen demonstrates with the 35mm images in Cafe Lehmitz.
Banos pointed to several other artists who have captured moments under available light in a similar fashion, the comments, and a selection of images are shown below.
Stan Banos Something that rarely, if ever, gets mentioned is that one of the reasons that Cafe Lehmitz remains so powerful and poignant to this very day is that the technical proficiency of the work alone is simply incredible. Early on, it really set the bar for what “availble light” work could aspire to be at its very pinnacle with a simple 35mm camera- and it was rarely duplicated in the years since…
Matt Johnston Stan, you are absolutely right, the technical proficiency Petersen shows in Lehmitz is something i must say i overlooked on my first looks through the book. I would be keen to hear some of the projects you think have come close to the Lehmitz standard? I would suggest Invisible City by Ken Schles (which we look at in Sept) is another groundbreaking ‘available light’ piece of work.
Stan Banos Good question. First off, it’s much easier to get top quality available light (ie- just enough existing light to record a worthwhile image) work today with full frame digital sensors. And although I can’t think of any (film) projects offhand of that particular (technical) quality that involve the sole use of available light photography, I’m sure they must exist. Admittedly, I’m not a great fan of available light work since 35mm by its very nature is pushing the limits of technical quality under the best of circumstances. That said, Henry Wessel’s 35mm prints (although not “available light”) are some of the most technically amazing and pristine wonders that can compete with any format for sheer technical (and aesthetic) beauty. And you need not go further than Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue to sample top notch work that features a considerable amount of available light work.
The work by Ken Schles has a different, more dreamy like aesthetic than Cafe Lehmitz that more closely resembles the work by another exemplary available light photographer, Michael Ackerman.
The following is a personal reflection from Wayne Ford on his first viewing of Cafe Lehmitz, if you have a reflection you would like to add, then do so in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I ﬁrst came across Café Lehmitz in the mid-1980s, browsing the secondhand bookshelves of a local bookstore, there amongst the how to books, and pretty landscapes of the photography section, I came across this book full of raw and gritty black-and-white images that bought to mind the work of Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, an artist I had only just discovered and whose work I had fallen in love with.
At that point I had never heard of Anders Petersen, was he an immensely important artist or a complete unknown, these where questions I would ask later, searching out the answers. But what I did know then, as I held the book in my hands, was that he was important to me famous or not, in his work I found an energy that I had rarely encountered before, and energy that I immediately found a connection with.
As we have pointed out before, and 5b4 books has commented on, there have been a variety of different editions that form a history of ‘Cafe Lehmitz’ from initial publication in 1979, to it’s latest incarnation from Schirmer/Mosel in 2009. It’s 32 year history marked by a total of 10 editions all listed below.
Anders Petersen has been working in London’s Soho for several weeks, as part of his Soho Projects residency commissioned by The Photographers’ Gallery. Immersing himself in its bars, cafes, homes and hotels – creating a very personal portrait of one of city’s most vibrant areas.
In this video Petersen talks about his time in London, his working processes, and previous projects including the seminal Cafe Lehmitz.
Anders Petersen (b.1944), one of Sweden’s most noted photographers, is known for his influential, intimate and personal documentary-style black-and-white photography.