Wild Young Minds: Amsterdam by Ed van der Elsken

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Amsterdam by Ed van der Elsken

To celebrate my vacation - and my fabulous city - my dad and I visited the exhibition 'Amsterdam! Ed van der Elsken' in the archive of the city. A selection of his best Amsterdam based photos, mostly from the fifties and sixties. We also saw a few short films from the good ol' days. All of this brought us back to Amsterdam in the past, which - although it may also be because of the idea - was so fashionable, personal and outstanding.
Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990) was born in Amsterdam, but grew up in a small village called Betondorp. In the fifties he started to photograph in Paris. He followed a few bohemiens here, amongst who Vali Myers, a mystical woman with tattoos on her face .Van der Elsken was a self-taught artist, so he never took any course or did a photograph study but he just put the act in practice. And that worked.
More than twenty photo books can be filled with his photos, which were taken everywhere in the world. On his travels - he went to Japan, China and Africa to name a few places - but also in his native town: Amsterdam, the city filled with atmosphere, always described as a giant village instead of a real metropole. 
It is this city that's in the spotlight in the exhibition. Recently, the photo book 'Amsterdam! Ed van der Elsken' was published and this exhibition is nothing more than the photos in the book put on the walls 1400 times as large.  Van der Elsken was often seen as a social photographer, which is due to the fact that he documented many important social events, such as the 'Bouwvakrellen' in 1966 and the nozems at Nieuwendijk. The nozems can be described as Dutch beatniks. Rebelling against the system is what they did, maybe not in the Kerouac style - I find the look of the nozems still a bit courteous - but definitely in a determined way. 
It is obvious that Van der Elsken loved to photograph the 'normal' middle-class Amsterdammer, and wanted to avoid the upper-class people, who live in an area called Old South.
Though he often captured the average Amsterdam inhabitants, we can find some fashion in the book as well. The photo of the girl with the cotton candy hair has become wildly famous. There's also a great shot of twin sisters, who were very popular with the boys in those days.
'Amsterdam! Van der Elsken' shows an interesting side of the city. Not the shots we all know - the canals, Dam Square, you name it, it's on Google - but the rebels, the outcasts and the typical Amsterdam citizens. If you love history, if you love Amsterdam or if you just love to have your share of culture from time to time, go see this exhibition. Don't forget to go downstairs for the film screening as well, since it definitely adds something spicy to the show.
If you're not Dutch, don't hesitate to go either, every description is also written in English and the photos mostly speak for themselves. The only bad thing is that you don't get to hear Nelly Frijda - Ma Flodder for the Dutchies amongst us - explaining the photos. The perfect woman for the setting: raw and fearless. In other words: Amsterdam at its best.

No comments:

Post a Comment