Anders Petersen retrospective City Diary

The Venue vs The Artist

Yesterday, before lunch, I spent some time at Hasselblad Center, the popular photography museum/art space in the center of Göteborg.

One of Sweden’s most acclaimed photographers, Anders Petersen, is having an exhibit there called “City Diary”.

I’m not sure what to think.

First of all, in my opinion, there were way, way, way too many images. Maybe I’m just no longer capable of absorbing so much visual information (150 photos) in one small place. That’s probably probable.

Secondly, and this might have to do with the sheer amount of photographs on display, the vast majority of Petersen’s subjects (and the compositions he used to portray them) just didn’t involve me. I’m sure there were plenty of interesting backstories. Perhaps I was just missing context in the sea of imagery.

Documenting people in society’s “underbelly” is almost always intriguing – until it comes across as being too staged, posed, and completely disconnected contextually from when and why it was captured. That’s how I felt about most of the exhibit’s photographs. Which is likely why the show is called “City Diary”. Petersens is sharing his personal visual diary, leaving the rest of us in the dark, detached.

Maybe the exhibit’s title is just a retrofit. 

When Elle and I visited Copenhagen Contemporary a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to her that whatever we saw enjoyed cultural legitimacy just by virtue of being exhibited there.

I kinda got that feeling yesterday while trying to figure out if Petersen’s exhibit was as important as the venue it is shown at claims it is. I’m not saying Petersen isn’t an important photographer or documentarian. But as a retrospective, I think “City Diary” could definitely have been more emotionally involving. Sometimes, less is more.