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March 31, 2007
For almost 40 years, Anders Petersen has been making some of the most compelling personal documentary photography in the world. He energetically pursues subjects that scare him, seduce him, or haunt him. He does this with warmth, humanity and intensity. And the results are very much like truthful self-portraits, or journal entries of personal and intimate encounters around the world.
His intense curiosity of the marginal, the unusual, and outcasts of society, is very much in the same vein as the work of Diane Arbus and Daido Moryama. Yet, of course, he has a unique and singular vision — and his photos feel less exploitive and much more tender. He reveals to us (sometimes in alarmingly intimate detail) the ordinary life of strangers (his "family") from all parts of the world.
He has published more than 20 photobooks in his native country, Sweden. And he is celebrated throughout Europe and Asia. For some reason he seems lesser known in America.
In 1978, he published a seminal body of work taken in the late night hours at a bar in Hamburg, Germany: the regulars, prostitutes, transvestites, drunks, lovers, drug addicts. The book was called, simply, Cafe Lehmitz. It influenced a generation of photographers. The singer/songwriter Tom Waits recognized his own sensibilities in those photos, and chose one for the cover of his breakthrough album, Rain Dogs:
Lilly and Rose, from Cafe Lehmitz, 1968-70, © Anders Petersen
Please do yourself a favor, and settle in for 20 minutes to enjoy the article, the interview, and the new work.