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A Closer Look -- City Diary

City Diary by Anders Petersen
City Diary comes in a grey cardboard envelope, the distinctive Anders Petersen scrawl giving us title and publisher. Inside are three large paperback volumes, each 9-1/4x12-1/4, the same basic design and format as the now sold out Dear Diary, published as a small limited run exhibition catalogue for the City Diary show. The City Diary book from Steidl and Gun Gallery pulls in more of the images from this 100 image exhibit which presented over 5 years of photographs from Petersen's travels. Many of the images in this book are familiar, having been included in some of Petersen's earlier publications, but the sequencing is notable. Various locations are gathered into each book, and without a firm sense of place the images are connected intuitively with Petersen as the unifying element. The photographs lead us on what feels like an exploration of Petersen's own photographic past, scattered and reassembled in these three books. These are the first in an on-going series.

from City Diary
The personal nature of Petersen's work is what strikes me the most in these volumes. The subject matter of the images is well-established -- high contrast portraits and street scenes, intimate and visceral, at times confrontational, but always vital.  They are images that have been called "raw" and "gritty" many times, which they certainly are, but while those elements alone might draw some attention to a photographer's work (even though these features are increasingly common in contemporary photographic practice), there is something else in Petersen's photographs that makes them remarkable. These books seem to be designed to pull out the subtler aspect, the quality that makes each image a reflection of the photographer.

from City Diary
 As the title implies, the 'diary' element is big here. The strange and beautiful juxtaposition of images seem to belie personal reactions and private jokes of the photographer with a sadness creeping in along the edges. This intimacy keeps the most revealing images from feeling exploitive. His subjects look into the camera as if they are watching the man behind it, making him a subject of the photograph as well. Petersen is not merely a tourist in these worlds; he connects with those he photographs because he can't be any other way.  With openness and urgency he gets at something basic, something very human.

from City Diary
One last note: these books stink. It's the visceral, almost overwhelming perfume of the thick black ink that makes the reproductions in the books look so fantastic.  The scent is heady, and weirdly lends and extra physicality to the images, a dense acridity. The smell will fade, but viewing the books right out of the wrapper is quite an all-encompassing experience. -- Sarah Bradley