Anders, gehst du heute immer noch mit deiner Kamera ins Bett?
Im Rahmen der Vernissage zu Anders Petersens Ausstellung »Café Lehmitz« in der FREELENS Galerie beantwortete der schwedische Fotograf Kurator Peter Lindhorst einige Fragen. Ein Gesprächsprotokoll.
Peter Lindhorst: Anders, gibt es irgendeine besondere Verbindung zu Hamburg? Bist du öfter hier und gehst du dann auch an die Plätze, wo das Lehmitz mal war? Wie ist das für dich?
Anders Petersen: I will answer in English. I’m talking very simple English, street English. So, to answer your question in a short way, I go for Hamburg, I go for every city, I go most of all for people, where I find people that I can identify myself with. Sometimes it’s in Hamburg, sometimes it’s in Tokyo or in Paris or in Stockholm… So it really doesn’t matter, where I am, because we are belonging to a big family. It doesn’t matter, where we are coming from or what kind of city we are in, because we are all what we are, you know? Brothers and sisters. We are related to each other and if you have that kind of approach, you will see that many doors are opening up for you. And this is what is happening to me.
So I’m extremely privileged and I’m a happy type. I am more a happy type than a photographer, actually. But you know how it is: photography is never about photography – has never been. So I am not interested then. Yes I am interested in photography, but in a special way. I am more interested in people, situations, to meet and to get to know more and to learn more, because as you understand the simple tool that you have, the camera that you have, is the key to open up doors and you are not just standing there knocking on doors, you are really opening up. I would never have had the possibility to stay so long in Café Lehmitz perhaps without a camera or being three years in a prison or three years in a mental hospital. It is thanks to the camera. There is a reason. This is what I want to say.
And if you are interested in what is behind a surface, which I am, this is a lovely tool to have. There are many of my friends I have been shooting, I have been taking pictures of maybe fifty years ago and they are still my friends. And many people are inviting me to their birthdays, to their sons birthdays or their daughters birthdays or marriages or whatever. This is the kind of relation I have to the people who I am taking pictures of. You follow me?
It is very back to basic. And I am very much for that kind of primitive platform in my approach to people. It’s not so much brainwork, in fact it’s quiet naive and a little bit stupid. I think stupid is a good word, because it helps photographers if they are, you know. Or, perhaps you can use another word than stupid, perhaps innocence is better. To keep the innocent eye is very important. The eyes of children, I think that is important when you try to survive. To avoid all the commercial traps around you with dignity, with a kind of dignity. I don’t know, is that an answer to your question?
Eine sehr schöne Antwort! Ich frage dich immer auf deutsch, weil wir das gestern so ausgemacht haben. Bist du eigentlich ein mutiger oder ein schüchterner Fotograf? Das möchte ich gerade auch fragen, als du ins Café Lehmitz gegangen bist – also, wenn da so’n junger Mann kommt und anfängt, die Leute da zu fotografieren, da muss man sich doch in Acht nehmen…
Ja, ich bin sehr schüchtern. But this I very typical for photographers, they are very shy. That’s one of the reasons they have a little tool. They have a camera. One of the reasons. On the other hand, it helps in many ways to have a camera. I don’t want to bring up the camera as a god, absolutely not. As a matter of fact, to be a photographer is not so interesting really. What is interesting is, what is coming out. Whatever you are doing, if you’re writing or if you’re painting, if you’re shooting – the result is what counts. For me, it is like a therapy. You have many questions…!
Nein, ich frage nicht alle Fragen, keine Angst. Gab es, gibt es eigentlich Gemeinsamkeiten mit den Leuten, die du auf diesen Fotos hast? Also, ich frage mich, wie war so deine Relation zu denen?
But of course, of course. For sure, yes. As I told you, we are all people, you know? We are… Back down there, we are the same, you know. And I told you, it doesn’t matter where we are coming from. If I’m coming from a rich family or not, it doesn’t matter. What I’m looking for is not the surface. If I would, for instance, if they are calling me from the royal castle in Stockholm and the queen, Sylvia, would like to have a portrait of her, so what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to take a picture of her as a queen or am I supposed to take a picture of her as a sister? Of course, as a sister! And this is how it is. If I take a picture of someone who killed, a murderer, am I supposed to shoot him as a murderer? No, of course not. As a brother.
This is back to basic and this is so important. You are not supposed to be seduced by the surface. You have to go for what is inside. And this is a way to shoot, this is also a way to live your life. Whatever you are doing, whatever kind of profession you have. Probably, my profession is not being a photographer. I don’t think so. Even if I’m still photographing and earning my money and paying my rent and my milk, so it’s okay. But it’s not really a profession. It’s more like an identity, I think.
When I was very young, when I was 23 years old, Christer Strömholm, this great Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm, told me: »Anders, you’re doing everything wrong, you know. You are to sleep with your camera«, he told me. And okay, I thought, yes, I will try. So, very concretely I put the camera in my bed. And then I slept with the camera. It was a little bit unbequem, but on the other hand, all these unbequem things or all this uncomfortable things, the harshness of the body was disappearing after a while. And after a while, I even liked it. I liked that it had a personality that wasn’t smooth. That wasn’t so nice. So, I liked it and I really started to join my camera. It almost went into my body as a third arm. It sounds ridiculous and I’m not romantic about this. Because if you’re really trying to have your camera in your bed, be careful. But if you try this, you will see how your attitude towards the camera is changing, how easy it is to shoot. And how fast it goes.
And at the same time, you have to learn all the techniques concerning the camera, you know. So, you don’t have to calculate with that, so it is already there. So you can focus and concentrate on what you really are up to. And if you, for instance, are taking a portrait of someone you love, then the only thing that is something is the love. The tool is not supposed to be in between. It has just to follow your feelings. And if you train it, you will succeed. You train this way, you will succeed. I’m sure.
Anders, gehst du heute immer noch mit deiner Kamera ins Bett?
Äh, nein, nicht so oft. I’m married! So no. No, I have trained that part of photography so much and it goes rather quick when I shoot, anywhere. I mean, I don’t have to have it all the time, no. Not in the bed. But on the other hand, I have it here all the time. I’m shooting too much – probably. And it costs a lot, because I’m analogue. So, it is what it is, you know. But now I’m old, so I’m supposed to know better. I’m supposed to know much more than I know, but one thing is for sure: I understand that I don’t know anything. But when I was 23 years old, I understood everything. I knew everything. I am pretty sure, yeah, no problem. But now I am very hesitating… So, do you have more questions?
Nein. Ich habe ganz viele Fragen und Sie haben vielleicht auch ganz viele Fragen und ich denke, dass es auch die Möglichkeit gibt, Anders die ein oder andere heute Abend noch im persönlichen Gespräch zu fragen. Ich möchte Sie dazu einladen, jetzt einen schönen Abend zu haben, ich freue mich, dass Sie gekommen sind und ich möchte mich nochmal ganz, ganz herzlich bei Anders bedanken. Vielen Dank!