Petersen, born in Solna, Sweden, educated at the Christer Strömholm School of Photography (1966–1968) and the Dramatic Institute (1973–1974). He achieved international fame with his photo book Café Lehmitz in 1978, a café open during the night where the people who lived in the area of Reeperbahn, Hamburg was portrayed with equal amounts of closeness and respect. The portrait of Lilly and Rose on the cover of Tom Waits classic record ”Raindogs” (1985) was essential to the spreading of one of Petersens most famous photos.
Petersen works through analog means, with a focus on strong contrasts in black and white, with around 30 published books. He has with his own unique style and feeling for catching what he sees, rather than focusing on the photographic technology, managed to further develop the photographic tradition that was initiated by Strömholm. His work is intuitive, and it has an exceptional ability to relay parts of his own weaknesses to create a contact with the portrayed, resulting in a feeling of mutual familiarity that is then shared with the viewers of his photographs. Among his many accolades and accomplishments the following stick out, The Arles Photographer of the year Award (2003), the jurys special price for the exhibition Exaltation of Humanity during the third International photo festival in Lanzhou, China (2007), Dr. Erich Salomon Award by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (2008), The Arles Contemporary Book Award together with JH Engström for From Back Home (2009). Petersen also obtained the Paris Photo and the Aperture Foundation Photo Book of the Year Award (2012) for his book City Diary, as well as the Lennart Af Petersens award (2019) for his series Stockholm.
Petersen’s photography has been displayed at Fotografiska Stockholm, The Museum of Modern Art New York, Hasselblad Center Göteborg, The Bibliothèque national de France Paris, Centre Pompidou Paris, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Moderna Museet Stockholm, Maison Européenne de la Photography Paris, Museum Folkwang Essen, Fotomuseum Winterthur etc. He has regularly exhibited with separate as well as group exhibitions around the world since 1969. Some of his published photo books: Gröna Lund Fyra Förläggare (1973), Café Lehmitz, Schirmer/Mosel (1978), Fängelse, Norstedts/ETC Förlag (1984), Rågång till kärleken, Norstedts (1991), Ingen har sett allt Legus Förlag (1996), Indicier: Strömholm, Petersen, Gustavsson, Journal Förlag (1996), Fotografier 1966–1996, Journal Förlag (1997), Anders Petersen Photo Poche, Actes Sud (2004), From Back home with JH Engström, Max Ström (2009), City Diary 1–3, Steidl (2012), Stockholm, Max Ström/Liljevalchs (2019).