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van der Elsken, Ed(uard) 1925-1990

van der ELSKEN, Ed(uard) 1925-1990


Born March 10, 1925, in Amsterdam, Netherlands; died December 28, 1990, in Edam, Netherlands; married Ata Kando (divorced); married Gerda van der Veen (divorced); married Anneke Hilhorst; children: (second marriage) Tinelou, Daan; (third marriage) John. Education: Nederlandse Fotovakschool, Hague correspondence lessons.


Freelance photographer in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1947-50, Paris, France, 1950-55, Edam, Netherlands, 1955-90; freelance filmmaker, 1959-90. Designed and developed new cameras. Exhibitions: Collections at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; Musuem of Modern Art, New York, NY; Capi-Lux Alblas Stichting, Amsterdam; Gemeentearchief, Amsterdam; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, the Hague; Museum of Modern Art, Kawasaki, Japan; Stichting Nederlands Fotoarchief, Rotterdam; Print Room, University of Leiden, Netherlands; and Art Institute of Chicago.


Staatsprijs voor de filmkunst, the Hague, 1971; David Roell Prijs, 1988.


Love on the Left Bank, [New York, NY], 1954.

Een Liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint Germain des Pres, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1956.

Nederlands Danstheater, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1958.

Jazz, De Bezige Bij (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1959.

Bagara, Central Africa, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1959.

De Werkelijkheid van Karel Appel, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1962.

Musique Barbare van Karel Appel, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1963.

Ed van der Elsken, (exhibition catalogue), [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1966.

Sweet Life, translated by Elizabeth Willems-Treeman, H.N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1966.

(With Mattheus Engel and others) Vrouwen van Amsterdam, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1970.

Zomar in een Sloot Ergens Bij Edam, (Bussum, Netherlands), 1977.

Eye Love You, Holkema & Warendorf (Bussum, Netherlands), 1977.

Life of a Swan Family, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1977.

Hallo!, Holkema & Warendorf (Bussum, Netherlands), 1978.

Amsterdam: Old Photographs, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1980.

Avonturen op het Land (screenplay; also see below), Holkema & Warendorf (Bussum, Netherlands), 1980.

De Ontdekking van Japan, Fragment (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1988.

Afrika, [Tokyo, Japan], 1990.

Once upon a Time, Fragment (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1991.

Works have been translated into French and English.


Hands, 1960.

Karel Appel, Componist Korte Versie, 1961.

Dylaby, 1962.

Welkom in het Leven, Lieve Kleine, 1963.

Het Waterlooplein Verdwijnt, 1967.

De Verliefde Camera, 1971.

Death in the Port Jackson Hotel, 1972.

Avonturen op het Land, 1980.

Een Fotograaf Filmt Amsterdam Korte Versie, 1982.

Bye, 1990.

Contributor of photographs to Dutch magazines.


Ed van der Elsken was a freelance photographer from 1947, and a filmmaker from 1959 until his death in 1990. The last film he made was 1990's Bye, in which he filmed the effects of prostate cancer on his body and his life.

Van der Elsken's photographs in Love on the Left Bank were taken when van der Elsken lived in Paris, France, from 1950 to1955. The photographs follow the story of a group of young adults whose lives have been negatively affected by World War II. Their lives—and the photographs—are filled with days and nights of drinking, drugs, and sex. Absolute Arts Web site contributor Kate Bush noted that Love on the Left Bank "remains his most celebrated work and one which secured his reputation in the early 1950s."

After Love on the Left Bank, van der Elsken began to photograph people exclusively. His home was in the Netherlands, but he traveled extensively all over the world to photograph his subjects. Since he taught himself how to use a camera, he was more concerned with capturing mood or atmosphere than with the technical aspect of photography. Therefore some of his photographs are dark, hazy, or blurry, but capture the mood or feeling of the time. "For van der Elsken, subjectivity was paramount; his best photos embody not just his point of view but his emotional investment and physical involvement, his fierceness, excitement, and joy," remarked Artforum International contributor Vince Aletti.



Contemporary Photographers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Artforum International, March, 2000, Vince Aletti, "Cafe Noir," p. 99.


Absolute Arts Web site, (May 3, 2002) Kate Bush, "Ed van der Elsken: Retrospective of a Dutch Photographer."

Ed van der Elsken Web site, (May 3, 2002).*

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