[ BOOK LIVES ] Café Lehmitz by Anders Peters

When I went to Stockholm in October 2014, one of my big plans was to meet Anders Petersen, one of my favorite photographers.

But when my bag was stolen just hours after arriving in Sweden, that treat for myself took a backseat.

Between teaching and dealing with the administrative hassles of getting the paperwork to secure my passage back to Singapore, I was both exhausted physically and mentally to even try to meet my hero.

But I made time to visit his exhibition at the Fotografiska twice.

On my second visit, I also journeyed to Stockholm Fotoantikvariant, a well known local bookseller, to see which Petersen books might be available.

Karl-Erik Jagare, the friendly owner proudly declared that the Swedish icon is a personal friend and a regular at the bookstore.

After establishing that I was a genuine customer, he went to his back room to retrieve a beautiful copy of first edition Café Lehmitz, one of Petersen’s most famous books.

For three years in the swinging late 60s, Petersen hung out with people on the fringe of the society in Café Lehmitz, a bar in Hamburg. First published in 1978, it is considered one of most important books in the history of European photography.

The asking price was 3000 Swedish Kronors, or about S$600.

I wanted the book badly but didn’t have enough cash to pay. My friends all offered but I declined, because it just did not feel right to borrow more money for something so extravagant.

Mr Jagare was observing me and then made a most unbelievable offer.

“If you really like the book, you can take it first then send me the money when you return home,” he said.

I was touched and told him I would consider that at lunch.

While walking to the restaurant he recommended, I told my friend Samuel that I would like to leave Stockholm happy, so I wanted to take up his offer.

I reasoned that this would bring closure and I could start trusting again.

Sam agreed that I should and we walked back to the bookstore.

I also decided that perhaps I should just offer all the cash I had – 2400 Kr – and see if he would be willing to accept that instead of waiting for my remittance.

Mr Jagare, 75, suggested that I pay a small deposit with my cash and pay the rest later, but he insisted several times that he would only take my cash if I could afford to, otherwise, the offer to pay from Singapore was still valid.

In the end, I gave him 1500 Kronors, and he asked if I needed a receipt. I reminded him that I am the one who still owes him 1500.

He shrugged and said it was ok.

The only guarantee he got from me was a name card, a handshake and a promise to pay.

Did he have to do it? Not really.

Mr Jagare only knew much later about the loss of my beloved Leica.

He had no idea the value of his kind gesture was way higher than 3000 or 1500 Kronors.

It was priceless and I was finally at peace now.

I could finally fly home happily.

Through Rebecca Ye, a former student from Singapore who was doing her PhD in Stockholm, I finally paid him the balance a few days after returning to Singapore.

He told Rebecca that he received my email requesting for his banking details but didn’t get around to reply.

He also asked if Rebecca if had any books to sell to him.

Cafe Lehmitz by Anders Petersen

Cafe Lehmitz by Anders Petersen

Cafe Lehmitz by Anders Petersen

Cafe Lehmitz by Anders Petersen

Cafe Lehmitz by Anders Petersen

Cafe Lehmitz by Anders Petersen

Cafe Lehmitz
Anders Petersen
ETC Förlags AB
ISBN 91-86168-04-5