Pictures that seize the darkish, seedy underbelly of 1960s Hamburg

Photographer Anders Petersen displays on the first tale guiding his Cafe Lehmitz sequence: one particular of the most revered picture projects of all time

Wedged on Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn, in the thick of the city’s Red Light District, Cafe Lehmitz once stood as a raucous, no-frills dive bar. Surrounded by about 25 brothels, open all around the clock, it was a late-night playground for community doing the job persons household to a family of misfits. “The tunes was good,” Anders Petersen says softly. “The men and women were being very kind… It was a very special position.” 

It’s been 50 percent a century since the Swedish photographer – now 77 – shot the illustrations or photos that would go on to turn into Cafe Lehmitz, one particular of the most revered photobooks of all time. From sailors to sexual intercourse personnel, drifters to dock personnel, the collection files the bar’s denizens in a viscerally intimate gentle: a uncooked, unbridled look at the underbelly of 1960s Hamburg.

Now, the photos are being shown in a new light as section of Shade Lehmitz, presently on present at New York’s Fotografiska. Curated by Angie Åström, the exhibition offers authentic contact sheets, unseen negatives and handwritten notes from Petersen, lifting the curtain on his meticulous creative course of action as he’s sorted via, edited, and selected illustrations or photos around the past 50 years. 

Petersen initially frequented St Pauli – the neighbourhood in which Cafe Lehmitz was situated, usually acknowledged as ‘the most sinful mile’ – as a teenager learning German in 1962. He crafted relationships there, and five many years later on, just after he experienced started out building pictures, he felt himself drawn back. “I wished to get pictures of my pals,” he states. “So I went out in Hamburg looking for them.” He was taken aback to find that nearly all of them have been useless.

“You stay extremely small lives in St Pauli,” Petersen states, “especially if you’re applying prescription drugs, and drinking much too significantly. These medications, they make you thin. They suggest you really don’t rest.” He is referring to Preludin, a stimulant drug after sold as an hunger suppressant, but commonly abused through the 50s and 60s (The Beatles, also released to ‘prellies’ in Hamburg, were being renowned buyers in their early decades).

Eventually, Petersen ran into an aged good friend, Gertrude, at the local Scandinavian bar. She informed him to meet her the pursuing evening at 1AM in Cafe Lehmitz. But when Petersen arrived at the packed bar, digicam in hand, Gertrude was nowhere to be seen. Amidst the sea of bodies and swirling cigarette smoke, Petersen discovered a seat, putting his digicam on the edge of the table. Shortly shed in the rush of dancing and debauchery, he did not discover the camera vanish – until eventually, across the place, he spied a glint in the air. 

“I noticed it, by possibility, at the other conclude of this significant home individuals ended up throwing the digital camera to each and every other and getting pictures,” he remembers. Cordially, the photographer approached them, and joined in. “And that’s how it begun.” Petersen would return to Hamburg several moments above the next two and a fifty percent a long time, normally going back to Cafe Lehmitz. “The persons had a presence and a sincerity that I myself lacked,” he says. “You have been permitted to be desperate, tender, sit by on your own, 
or develop into portion of the group. In the vulnerability, there was
 a wonderful offer of warmth and tolerance.”

Wherever Cafe Lehmitz felt personal, Color Lehmitz – on demonstrate at Fotografiska NY till 6 March – endeavours to insert another dimension: not simply just inviting audiences to get to know the topics, but to get below the skin of the artist, much too. Audiences are allow in on Petersen’s markings and brutal procedures of crossing out what he deemed unfit they are enlisted in his endeavours to current his topics as actually, and humanely, as achievable.

In the gallery, deep purple walls conjure the result of a darkish place. Every single path teems with illustrations or photos: infinite people, expressions and tales, suspended in time, and still throbbing with the motion and dynamism of the unique placing. By the artist’s contact sheets, we are immersed not only in the scenes that have prolonged been renowned, but the plenty of times that preceded and succeeded them. “It’s a everyday living, you see, not definitely a job,” Petersen once instructed the Guardian. “This is why I choose too quite a few.” 

Colour Lehmitz is on demonstrate at Fotografiska NY right until 6 March 2022