Last Updated May 15, 2018
Ed van der Elsken, Beethovenstraat. Amsterdam. 1967. Nederlands Fotomuseum ©Ed van der Elsken | Collection Ed van der Elsken estate

Ed van der Elsken

Dutch (Born 1925 - Died 1990 ) PREMIUM LISTING Featured Hot
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Ed van der Elsken, Vali Myers in front of her mirror. Paris. 1953. Nederlands Fotomuseum ©Ed van der Elsken | Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Ed van der Elsken, Rickshaw. Hongkong, China 1959-1960. Nederlands Fotomuseum ©Ed van der Elsken | Leiden University Library
Ed van der Elsken, Twins at the Nieuwmarkt. 1956. Nederlands Fotomuseum ©Ed van der Elsken. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Eduard 'Ed' van der Elsken was a Dutch photographer and filmmaker. His work spanned subjects including love, sex, art, music and alternative culture. His way of making life the center of his work is appealing to many photographers. He is renowned as the first true Dutch street photographer, and the way he used his camera much in the way that young people today snap selfies and navigate their own personal boundaries between the private and the public selves.

Van der Elsken was born in 1925 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In 1950, at the suggestion of fellow Dutch photographer, Emmy Andriesse, he moved to Paris. There he was employed in the darkrooms of the Magnum photography agency, printing for Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Ernst Haas.

In 1953, the American photographer Edward Steichen, the curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, selected 18 of his works for the exhibition “Postwar European Photography,” and one photograph for “The Family of Man” exhibition and book of 1955.

Encouraged by Steichen, 1956 saw the release of Van der Elsken's innovative semi-biographical photobook "Love on the Left Bank". The book documented the tale of the ill-fated infatuation of a Mexican boy, with Vali Myers. Partly autobiographical and partly fictional (Van der Elsken was attracted to the extravagant Vali Myers a number of elements - such as Manuel's imprisonment - are drawn from accounts of the other bohemians in his circle of friends.

"Love on the Left Bank" was the first of some twenty Van der Elsken publications.

Moving back to Amsterdam in 1955 he recorded members of the COBRA avant-garde movement. Travels to Africa, Tokyo and Hong Kong followed. During this time and his return to the Netherlands he worked with both film and photography. In 1971, like many other artists and hippies of his era, he went back to the land: in his case, a farm in Edam, the Netherlands, with his third wife, the photographer Anneke Hilhorst.

Ed van der Elsken died in 1990 in the Netherlands. His work was featured in early 2017 in a major exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.


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