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  • Stadsarchief: Amsterdam! Ed van der Elsken

    zie Wolfsburg-catalogus pag. 106

    Take a trip down a very Dutch memory lane with one of Amsterdam’s most celebrated photographers.

    For those who don’t know, Eduard “Ed” van der Elsken (1925 – 1990) was a Dutch photographer and film maker. Amsterdam! Oude foto’s 1947-1970, originally published in 1979, remains one of his most famous pieces of work. The book was a collaboration between van der Elsken and an equally great graphic designer called Anthon Beeke, who between them created a book of images that was praised at the time for creating a new kind of visual dialogue between Amsterdam and a world-wide audience, showcasing the diversity of the city. Due to it being out of print over the last decade or so, the book has become even more sought-after.

    From June 6 – September 14 2014, an exhibition at the Amsterdam City Archives will feature more than a hundred of the original prints that were used in this book. Spanning a period from 1947, just after World War II, to the beginning of the 70s, van der Elsken managed to capture the Amsterdam Zeitgeist through the different decades; from its Second World War poverty through to it’s relative prosperity in the late 60s, from revolts against the authorities to everyday life on the streets of Amsterdam. He captured the growth of the city, it’s pride and it’s beauty, as well as it’s decay and it’s dirt. His photographs show diverse imagery such as children playing with rubbish, rioters, interactions between locals and tourists, and every day activities as well as once-in-a-lifetime events. In short, he has captured Amsterdam during this period, with its myriad of social classes and cultures, in a way no one else has.

    The exhibition coincides with the reprint of the book by former hip-hop label Top Notch together with publisher Bas Lubberhuizen, who have taken over 300 of van der Elsen’s original negatives and had them digitally scanned and edited. In keeping with the original book’s collaborative theme, the Anthon Beeke collective were called in to provide the artwork for the reprint, mimicking Anthon Beeke’s design for the original.


    Some of van der Elsken’s most famous photographs have been those of individuals with striking appearances. Arguably his most famous image is ‘The Girl with the Candy Floss Hair.’ This photograph has been somewhat of a mystery over the decades when it came to the identity of it’s subject. Through the renewed interest in van der Elsken’s photographs, this mystery can be finally laid to rest. The model’s husband has been in contact with the museum after seeing her image. Her name was Margriet Swart and, sadly, she had been dead for six years. Still, seeing her face in van der Elsken’s work had been a happy experience for him. This is just one of the many stories that lie behind the photographs that van der Elsken took.

    To contrast the images of the past, the exhibition also showcase contemporary street photography by Reinier Gerritsen, Hans Eijkelboom and Theo Niekus. So don’t miss your chance to see the real Amsterdam, past and present. The exhibition runs until 14 September 2014 at the Het Stadsarchief Amsterdam, the museum attached to the Amsterdam City Archives.

    Images: © Ed van der Elsken/Nederlands Fotomuseum, courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery

    Let a portrait be made of you in the style off a great master from a Dutch painter. More info here.


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