JTF (just the facts): A total of 100 unframed black and white photographs, hung edge to edge in grids covering the walls in the main gallery space. All of the works are digital prints on matte paper, sized 38×26, and printed in editions of 10. The images were taken between 2000 and 2008, with most made in the second half of that period. A monograph of this body of work is forthcoming from Steidl (here). (Installation shots at right via Marvelli Gallery.)
Comments/Context: Swedish photographer Anders Petersen’s new show crackles with raw, gritty energy, assaulting the viewer with an enveloping array of disconnected moments. The works jump from the unsettling and explicit to the more intimate and vulnerable, documenting the shadowy underbelly of life in nameless European cities.
Petersen’s sooty aesthetic was immediately reminiscent for me of the work of Daido Moriyama and other Provoke-era Japanese photographers. His shadowy interiors are often harshly lit by a blast of light, capturing everyday scenes and objects with a mood of disturbing darkness. Muzzled, mangy dogs and bright eyed cats become sinister and threatening. Close-up faces are scarred and bloodied, weary and angry, the sitters unperturbed by the invasion of the camera. His nudes are casual and direct, bodies bluntly exposed. Even his images of brides, cupcakes, flowers and goldfish seem to have a rough edge, finding an undercurrent of something brusque and unpleasant in subjects that would normally be warm and inviting. Dead bugs cluster on a windowsill, a woman sticks out her black tongue, a left-over sausage is tangled on a plaid dinner plate, and a dog hobbles along with a broken leg near a dated van. Europe is seen as a collection of marginal subcultures, a veil of charcoal giving each moment a sense of struggle.
This body of work is successful as an overpowering installation, and will likely be equally potent in book form. Even with their unwavering directness, these pictures never seem voyeuristic, cheap or even particularly pessimistic; instead they have that memorable empathy and stylized realism that can be found in the work of Nan Goldin or Diane Arbus, albeit with a slightly darker point of view. This is a jolting show, one that is not always safe or easy, but one that forces the viewer to see a slice of our world that hides in the shadows.
Collector’s POV: All of the works on display priced at €5000 each. Petersen’s work has not yet become reliably available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.