Ed van der Elsken – Once Upon a Time
Ed van der Elsken (1925–1990), first and foremost a photographer of street scenes, found his subjects through incessant wanderings and foraging in metropolises like Paris, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Student quarters and working class neighborhoods were his preferred areas, where he was attracted to people who radiated pride and vitality and who lived their lives exuberantly, even in the depths of poverty. His special, almost unique way of approaching people, captivating them, convincing them to consent to be photographed for seconds or minutes, lends his photographs an often extroverted theatrical dimension. In addition there are numerous examples of restrained, poetic, sometimes even sad scenes, which attest to his appreciation of the individual. Perhaps he may be called an existential photographer, or else the hippie of photographers. In any case his work praises the warmth, joy, and beauty of life all at once, even as it tells of loss, sadness, aggression, and violence.
The exhibition and the book Once Upon a Time, which Ed van der Elsken himself outlined as his legacy shortly before his death, comprises the good part of his projects from 1947–1988.
The exhibition was curated by Hripsimé Visser. Realisation in Winterthur: Urs Stahel. A collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.