Bohemian life according to Ed van der Elsken

Until September 24th, the Jeu de Paume museum is hosting the first French retrospective of photographer Ed van der Elsken, entitled La vie folle. Part rebel, part philosopher, the Amsterdamer was above all a seducer, in love with bohemian life.

By Alexis Thibault

  • Ed van der Elsken, Vali Myers (Ann) her mirror, Paris, 1953. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Vali Myers (Ann) dance to La Scala, Paris, 1950. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Vali Myers (Ann), Paris, 1953. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Pierre Feuillette (Jean-Michel) and Paulette Vielhomme (Claudine) s’embrassant au café Chez Moineau, Rue du Four, Paris, 1953. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Vali Myers (Ann), Roberto Inigez-Morelosy (Manuel) and Geraldine Krongold (Geri), Paris, 1950. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Jean-Michel Mension (Pierre ) and Auguste Hommel (Benny) devant le Mabillon, Paris , 1953 Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Pierre Feuillette (Jean-Michel Mension), Paris, around 1953 (2016). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate, courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Jean-Michel Mension (Pierre) and Auguste Hommel (Benny), Paris, 1953. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Brigitte Bardot, Paris, 1952 (v. 1979) Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Paris, 1950 (v. 1979). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Ata Kandó, Paris, 1952 (v. 1979). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Ata Kandó, Paris, 1953 (v. 1979). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Quartier de Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam, 1961 (v. 1978). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, twins on Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam, 1956. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Beethovenstraat, Amsterdam, 1967. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate, courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Amsteradm 1983 (v. 1978) Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Rockers, Harajuku, Tokyo, 1984. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, girl in the subway, Tokyo, 1981. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Japan, vers 1974 (2015). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate, courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery
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  • Ed van der Elsken, yakusa territory Kamagasaki, Osaka, 1960 (1989). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Chet Baker, Amsterdam, 1955 (v. 1985). Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate
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  • Ed van der Elsken, ritual, Oubangui-Chari, Central Africa, 1957 (2016) Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Ed van der Elsken Estate, courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Hong Kong, 1959-1960. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collections spéciales de l’université de Leyde
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Los Angeles, États-Unis, 1960. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collections spéciales de l’université de Leyde
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  • Ed van der Elsken, Waitresses, Cebu, Philippines, 1960. Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam © Ed van der Elsken / Collection du Stedelijk Museum d’Amsterdam
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The Jeu de Paume is currently showing an exhibition entitled Ed van der Elsken, la vie folle until September 24th, in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum. This first retrospective in France is a chance to discover the work of the Dutch photographer who died in 1990, before it travels on to the Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid. An icon of 20thcentury Dutch photography and documentary cinema, Ed Van der Elsken scoured the streets of Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo searching for an aesthetic free of artifice. Between documentary photography, eroticism and exuberant personalities, his work spans several decades, a temporal journey whose scope varies according to medium. Because Ed van der Elsken wasn’t content with just taking pictures, he also filmed, wrote, drew and staged made-up characters from the Parisian rive gauche to his natal Amsterdam.

 

Sombre in the 1950s, a rebel ten years later, Ed van der Elsken even dabbled in philosophy in the 1980s. A seducer and provocateur, the photographer above all lived an artistic idyll with the men and the women who feature in his clichés, images that buzz with a distinct notion of bohemian life. The youth are uncertain but eccentric, living “a charming and terrible life, with its victors and its martyrs” in the words of writer Henry Murger.

 

With his camera, Ed van der Elsken filmed the world that surrounded him, his approach was direct and quasi-autobiographical. “I do things that are deadly serious but I also do funny things. I report on young, rebellious thugs with pleasure… I rejoice in life, I’m not complicated, I rejoice in everything. Love, courage, beauty. But also blood, sweat and tears,” he explained in his film The Infatuated Camera / Camera in Love of 1971. The exhibition at the Jeu de Paume reveals the numerous facets of the artist, his projects, his contact sheets and his sketches enabling us to fully understand his methods of working.

 

Ed van der Elsken, la vie folle, at the Jeu de Paume Museum (Paris 8th), until September 24th 2017.