June 2, 2023


Without Art It's Really Boring!!!

Images that seize the dark, seedy underbelly of 1960s Hamburg

4 min read

Photographer Anders Petersen reflects on the authentic story at the rear of his Cafe Lehmitz collection: 1 of the most revered image projects of all time

Wedged on Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn, in the thick of the city’s Pink Light-weight District, Cafe Lehmitz at the time stood as a raucous, no-frills dive bar. Surrounded by about 25 brothels, open up about the clock, it was a late-evening playground for community functioning individuals home to a spouse and children of misfits. “The tunes was good,” Anders Petersen suggests softly. “The men and women had been pretty kind… It was a very particular spot.” 

It is been half a century because the Swedish photographer – now 77 – shot the pictures that would go on to come to be Cafe Lehmitz, one particular of the most revered photobooks of all time. From sailors to sex staff, drifters to dock staff, the series files the bar’s denizens in a viscerally personal gentle: a raw, unbridled glance at the underbelly of 1960s Hamburg.

Now, the images are getting shown in a new light-weight as portion of Shade Lehmitz, at present on present at New York’s Fotografiska. Curated by Angie Åström, the exhibition presents primary contact sheets, unseen negatives and handwritten notes from Petersen, lifting the curtain on his meticulous artistic system as he’s sorted via, edited, and picked illustrations or photos more than the past 50 decades. 

Petersen initially frequented St Pauli – the neighbourhood in which Cafe Lehmitz was situated, in any other case identified as ‘the most sinful mile’ – as a teen researching German in 1962. He developed interactions there, and 5 yrs later, soon after he experienced started creating illustrations or photos, he felt himself drawn again. “I required to just take pictures of my buddies,” he claims. “So I went out in Hamburg looking for them.” He was taken aback to uncover that just about all of them had been dead.

“You dwell very small lives in St Pauli,” Petersen suggests, “especially if you are working with medicines, and drinking as well considerably. These medicines, they make you slim. They mean you do not rest.” He is referring to Preludin, a stimulant drug once sold as an urge for food suppressant, but extensively abused during the 50s and 60s (The Beatles, also introduced to ‘prellies’ in Hamburg, had been renowned buyers in their early a long time).

Sooner or later, Petersen ran into an aged mate, Gertrude, at the community Scandinavian bar. She advised him to meet her the adhering to night at 1AM in Cafe Lehmitz. But when Petersen arrived at the packed bar, digital camera in hand, Gertrude was nowhere to be noticed. Amidst the sea of bodies and swirling cigarette smoke, Petersen found a seat, putting his digicam on the edge of the table. Quickly missing in the rush of dancing and debauchery, he did not notice the digital camera vanish – until eventually, across the place, he spied a glint in the air. 

“I observed it, by prospect, at the other close of this huge home people were being throwing the camera to every other and having pics,” he remembers. Cordially, the photographer approached them, and joined in. “And that’s how it started out.” Petersen would return to Hamburg numerous periods around the up coming two and a 50 % decades, constantly likely again to Cafe Lehmitz. “The men and women had a existence and a sincerity that I myself lacked,” he says. “You have been authorized to be determined, tender, sit by yourself, 
or become section of the community. In the vulnerability, there was
 a good deal of warmth and tolerance.”

In which Cafe Lehmitz felt personal, Shade Lehmitz – on show at Fotografiska NY till 6 March – endeavours to add one more dimension: not only inviting audiences to get to know the topics, but to get under the skin of the artist, far too. Audiences are let in on Petersen’s markings and brutal approaches of crossing out what he deemed unfit they are enlisted in his initiatives to present his topics as honestly, and humanely, as probable.

In the gallery, deep red partitions conjure the impact of a darkish area. Every single direction teems with photos: infinite characters, expressions and tales, suspended in time, and nonetheless throbbing with the movement and dynamism of the unique environment. Through the artist’s contact sheets, we are immersed not only in the scenes that have very long been renowned, but the countless times that preceded and succeeded them. “It’s a life, you see, not truly a profession,” Petersen when told the Guardian. “This is why I get as well a lot of.” 

Shade Lehmitz is on display at Fotografiska NY right up until 6 March 2022

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