Updated: Dec 8, 2019
The exhibition "LUST FOR LIFE - ED VAN DER ELSKEN in Colour" opened on May 25th this year and will be hosted at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam until October 2019. I have been really lucky when one of my friends - who knows I am obsessed with photography - invited me to a special evening edition at the Nederlands Fotomuseum, with a close number of people attending only. The Nederlands Fotomuseum is pretty big and this exhibition is really a complete one: we managed to stay there only a couple of hours, while if there would have been more people and more descriptions under each photo, it would have taken us for sure a couple of hours more to cover the whole exhibition.
The exhibition starts with a great video session in a kind of cinema room where more than 8 screens show, at the same time, a 15-minute-time video's made by the Dutch photographer together with some of his pictures projected in sequence to form different movies. This video was seen for the 1st time in The Netherlands in 2016, at the Dutch itinerant theater event DE PARADE, after the original one of 1977 when Ed re-composed the photography series EYE LOVE YOU into a slide show presented at the time at the Stadelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The 2916 video includes more images than the original ones, composed as well in a different order, and is to be seen now at the Rotterdam Fotomuseum.
There is so much to see at the same time during this video, yet the images are so capturing that the sensation is overwhelming and the "too much" only refers to the fact that everything is so beautiful and beautifully composed that the viewer would love to be able to stop and stare at each screen for a bit longer, in order to let the eye capture more details. Luckily these details can be captured afterwards, at the end of the movie, where the exit of the cinema room introduces the spectator into the different areas of the exhibition, showing all the series of which the cinema video's are part of. So finally, after the overwhelming feelings around the very quick video's presented, the visitor can go into more details and understand the overall concept around certain photo's, also because additional projectors show even in the main area of the exhibition short video's and reportage's about the life, the travels, the message of this interesting photographer. But who is Ed van Elsken?
Ed van Elsken is a photo journalist and reality photographer who has always loved depicting people in their normal habits. His street photography is as beautiful as his portrait photography. His pictures have to be looked at all together to understand the part of life he was trying to illustrate. He has traveled the world and photographed thousands of different subjects in thousands of different situations, always showing a particular attention, care and love for people (EYE LOVE YOU) and for life (LUST FOR LIFE). He has depicted the beauty of life as well as its drama, going from normal daily situations to war zones and poverty areas, depicting with his camera as much of the beauty around him as of the drama in it. Yet despite the titles above, the first Ed van der Elsken was in black and white (1950 and '60) and his photos gained him a world-famous status.
But Ed also liked photographing street life, billboards and posters, people and events. He was a real story teller. The reunion at Dam square in the '60s of the "Dam sleepers", a mass of hippies who gathered from all around the world to silently and peacefully celebrate the liberated and artistic climate of Amsterdam; the 3-day-long Holland Pop Festival in Kralingen in 1970 which was the Dutch response to Woodstock in the US (1969) and the declaration of sexual freedom, hippy lifestyle and free love; the riots of the squatters movement in April 1980 to protest against the shortage of housing.. all these an many more are the pictures he was producing with remarkable techniques,
The amazing discovery of this exhibition for me has been the work of art that the Nederlands Fotomuseum has done in saving all the slides Ed van der Elsken made during his life, which, at a certain point, got compromised by the humidity and the mold of the countryside of Edam, where he was living. So, after many years of work, all the little dia's have been saved and they are now preserved at a fixed temperature, in order to allow generations to come to still meet and get inspired by this great photographer. The lady in the slide below, the 5th photo from the top, is Vali Myers, who also modeled for Ed van der Elsken's first photobook: she was eye catching and her appearance bohemian, with red hair which Ed depicted beautifully using color photos for the first time.
Many are also the cover magazines that Ed van der Elsken did, especially for AVENUE Magazine and which can be found at the exhibition.
Ed van der Elsken is among the most popular Dutch photographers and this one is one of his first major exhibition of his works in color. Color or black and white, his photos are striking in their simplicity and reality. As good with his camera as with a video camera and extremely ahead of times, Ed van der Elsken expresses the joix de vivre, despite it all.
The main idea for this blog is extracted by the booklet published on the occasion of the LUST FOR LIFE - ED VAN DER ELSKEN IN COLOUR exhibition held at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam between May 25th and October 6th 2019.
- All pictures included in this article are from Ed van der Elsken exhibition at the Rotterdam Fotomuseum. Pictures might be subject to copyrights: all rights are reserved to the author.
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