News — 11 May 2017

122 photographs to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The collection of the Stedelijk Museum, which already boasted over 300 photographs by the celebrated Dutch photographer, now welcomes the addition of 122 photographs: 61 gifted by the Ed van der Elsken Estate, augmented by the acquisition of 61 works, made possible by the Mondrian Fund.

Beatrix Ruf, director of the Stedelijk Museum: “We are delighted by this gift and by the opportunity to acquire such a large series of works. This is an important addition to our collection that, so far, had mainly focused on Ed van der Elsken’s early photographs from his days in Paris, and his world-famous photo book Love on the Left Bank. This gift and the purchase allows us to present his varied oeuvre in greater depth, with photographs of his travels to Central Africa and Japan, as well as a rich body of work chronicling the city of Amsterdam.”

Ed van der Elsken was a true street photographer with an unparalleled talent for capturing the zeitgeist. He was a photographer who cared about making a personal connection with the people he photographed, and his spontaneous, unconventional and personal style pervades his entire oeuvre.

The photographs of Amsterdam that make up the new acquisition range from the early 1950s to the 1980s and register the city’s transformation – young men with heavily greased quiffs, Teddy Boys, the riots and demonstrations the stormy ‘60s, Feminist activists, and punks. The images shot in Central Africa relate to his book 1958 book, Bagara, in which Van der Elsken documents village life, the rituals, and hunts. The visual travelogue of his trips to Japan from 1959 to the 1980s explore the country, its culture and inhabitants, including yakuza (Japanese gangsters) sumo wrestlers and transsexuals.

The donated and newly acquired works are already on display in the exhibition
Ed van der Elsken – Camera in Love, on view until 21 May at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. The exhibition will travel to Musée Jeu de Paume, Paris.

In the closing weekend, the finissage By(e) Ed!, on Friday 19 May, includes a pop-up exhibition, workshops and lectures, the results of the photo competition, and more.

Leiden University: newly discovered sketches for the photo book Sweet Life

Leiden University has acquired previously unknown content for a book dummy made by Ed van der Elsken. The material consists of different mock ups of the photo book Sweet Life (1966), created by Van der Elsken in 1959 and 1960 following a world trip he took with his second wife to the west coast of Africa, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and Mexico. In the period between the trip and the book’s publication (roughly 1961 to 1965) Van der Elsken produced several different versions, by hand, developing and improving the book’s layout. In today’s digital world, it’s almost impossible to imagine the work involved in creating a book by hand in the 1960s.

Ed van der Elsken, dummy for the photo book Sweet Life, purchased by Leiden University

Maartje van den Heuvel, curator of Photography at Leiden University Library: “Sketches and dummies are unique material that reveal the hand of the artist. By comparing and studying the different versions, you can see how Sweet Life gradually took shape, and the various choices and decisions Ed van der Elsken experimented with as he shaped the flow and layout of the book. The notes he jotted down on the sketches provide incredible insights into his ideas. What makes this find and acquisition even more fantastic for us is that Sweet Life was close to Van der Elsken’s heart, and reveals his innermost artistic character.”

The purchase is made possible with the support of the Rembrandt Association, through its BankGiro Loterij Acquisition Fund, and the Mondrian Fund. The Leiden University collection holds thirty dummies of world-renowned Dutch photo books, by photographers including Johan van der Keuken, Ed van der Elsken, Emmy Andriesse, Willem Diepraam and Koos Breukel. The holdings are an important resource for photographic and art historical research, and items from the collection are regularly loaned to museums.