Ed van der Elsken, filming photographer

Ed van der Elsken travelled the world for magazines like Avenue, taking thousands of photographs. On film he talks about his career as a photographer, a career in which people always take centre stage. His own family was another one of his subjects. Part of a programme to accompany the van der Elsken tribute in the Stedelijk Museum.

In both films van der Elsken comments on his life as a photographer and filmmaker and the interaction between the two. Unlike many of his fellow photographers, van der Elsken was not an invisible presence but confidently encountered the people in front of his camera. He also appeared in his films himself, providing flamboyant commentary. The footage amounts to a self-portrait, family portrait and journalistic portrait rolled into one.

Welkom in het leven, lieve kleine (Welcome to Life, Little One)
Ed van der Elsken (NL 1964) 36'

Van der Elsken filmed the birth of his second child, Daan Dorus, in Amsterdam’s Nieuwmarkt district, where the photographer, his wife Gerda and daughter Tinelou lived in a cramped third-floor apartment on Koningstraat. The film opens with a wild car ride through the Nieuwmarkt district. He films Gerda’s mood swings, there’s a fight on the street, their son Daan is born in hospital. Van der Elsken presents a candid portrait of the life of a young bohemian family in Amsterdam.


De verliefde camera (Camera in Love)
Ed van der Elsken (NL 1971) 43'

Van der Elsken talks about his many trips as a photojournalist which took him to countries as far apart as India, Cuba, Japan, Greenland and Indonesia. Wherever he went he turned his camera on people, on life as it was lived. As he films and narrates, photographs and film fragments appear of women giving birth, couples in love, political events, children and adolescents. Van der Elsken preserved some five thousand photographs, all of which testify to his personal creed: to sing the praises of life, whether it’s about love and beauty or ‘fury, blood, sweat and tears’. The film was awarded with the Netherlands’ national film prize.

The films are shown on 16mm and are part of EYE’s collection.

With special thanks to Anneke Hilhorst and Han Hogeland