The life of photographer, filmmaker, artist and world traveler Ed van der Elsken was connected intimately with his work. He did not hide behind the camera, but used it to get in touch with the people he preferred to photograph: eccentric characters in the large metropolises, often belonging to the lower strata of society.
Ed van der Elsken's life and work can be divided into three periods. His time in Paris (1950-1954) is connected with his first wife, Ata Kando, and his first photo book, Een liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint Germain des Prés (A Love Story in Saint Germain des Prés), published in 1956, which received a lot of attention internationally.
The second period (1955-1970) is determined by Amsterdam and the many trips he made, alone or with his second wife Gerda van der Veen. Some of the most important, internationally published books from this period are Bagara (1958), Jazz (1959) and Sweet Life (1966).
The third period (1971-1990) is strongly connected with his last place of residence, Edam, and the rural life he shared there with Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst. During these years, Van der Elsken made a large number of travel reports, commissioned by the magazine Avenue (1967-1979). He also travelled to Japan regularly. The most important books from this period include: his first photo book in colour, Eye love you (1977), Amsterdam! Oude foto's (Old Pictures) 1947-1970 (1979), Avonturen op het land (Adventures in the Country, 1980), De ontdekking van Japan (The discovery of Japan, 1988) and Once upon a Time (1991), composed by Van der Elsken himself and published posthumously.