Tom Waits drew from the series the unforgettable cover image of Rain Dogs (1978). And Petersens’s photographs have just that atmosphere – I’ll tell you all my secrets / but I lie about my past.
The shots date back to the late 1960s. A young Petersen had just finished photography school in Stockholm (with Strömholm) and moved to Hamburg, where he had already been a few years earlier to study German.
Here he frequents the red-light district, a bar in particular: Cafè Lehmitz; the patrons are mostly alcoholics and prostitutes, people on the margins of society.
“The people, in Cafè Lehmitz, had a presence and sincerity that I lacked. There you were free to feel desperate, or to crave tenderness, to keep yourself or to seek the company of others. It was a totally bare-bones place, but full of warmth and tolerance”.
Cafè Lehmitz is a family scrapbook of sorts. A work that will remain defining throughout Petersen’s long career and has been published in various formats.