This exhibition presents two series that are key to European photography of the second half of the twentieth century; Les Amies de Place Blanche by Christer Strömholm and Café Lehmitz by Anders Petersen. These two photographers, beyond being the two great exponents of Swedish photography, shared a way of understanding the photographic medium that was decisive for contemporary photography. The work of Strömholm and Petersen, professor and disciple respectively, shows a palpable Nordic melancholy, as well as an intense empathy and a compromise with the photographed environments.
Christer Strömholm (Stockholm, 1922-2002), moved to Paris at the end of the fifties and lived near the Pigalle neighbourhood. There, he befriended a community of transsexuals and travesties who worked on the nearest streets and hotels, and began to photograph them. The series, which was first published in Swedish in 1983, became Strömholm's most iconic work, as it symbolises what for this artist strived for in photography; the possibility not only to "capture the moment" but also to delve into the big questions of the life: love, death and human loneliness.
Anders Petersen (Stockholm, 1944) travelled to Hamburg at the end of the sixties and began to frequent the Café Lehmitz, a pub in the city's red light district, a refuge for people who lived on the margins of society: prostitutes, workers, customers and pimps. During three years, Petersen created a provocative document, which was published in 1978 and quickly became one of the most influencing books in European photography. "The people at Café Lehmitz", Petersen remembers, "had a presence and a sincerity that I myself lacked. It was okay to be desperate, to be tender, to sit alone or share the company of others. There was a great warmth and tolerance in this destitute setting." In his photographs, the bar customers share moments of camaraderie, they dance, they hug each other or just remain absorbed. One of the most famous pictures is a portrait of Rose and Lilly, which was also used to illustrate the cover of Tom Waits' record Rain Dogs.
With complicity and respect, both Strömholm and Petersen gave visibility to those people, who even living at the limits, chose to move forward. In their work, the unique picture is converted to a sequence, making the photographer's creative process clearly visible.