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E D

01 9 9 7

V A N

PARADOX

Copyright texts and photos: the various authors and photographers Copyright photos Ed van der Elsken: Nederlands Fotoarchief, Rotterdam Copyright filmstills Ed van der Elsken: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst, Warder


E D I T E D BY Bas Vroege A n n e k e v a n der E l s k e n - H i l h o r s t Flip B o o l P H O T O FRONT COVER v a n der E l s k e n . s e l f - p o r t r a i t (detail) P a r i s c a . 1950-1954 PHOTO BACK COVER E i k o h Hosoe (1964) AUTHORS R o e l Bentz v a n den Berg Flip Bool Thomas H o n i c k e l J a n - C h r i s t o p h e r Horak Johan v a n der K e u k e n M i r e i l l e de Putter TRANSLATIONS S i c c o H e y l i g e r s . London Donald M a d e r . R o t t e r d a m Saskia Porcelijn. Amsterdam DESI6N Barends & Pijnappel (Henrik Barends) Antwerp LITHOGRAPHY Reprofa Culemborg PRINTIN6 Veenman Drukkers Wageningen BINDING V a n Den Burg Weurt This p u b l i c a t i o n w a s made p o s s i b l e w i t h the support of the P R I N S B E R N H A R D FONOS Amsterdam

E-mail

Publisher PARADOX P0 Box 113 1135 ZK Edam The N e t h e r l a n d s T •31-299-315083 F •31-299-315082 paradox@knoware.nl

ISBN

90-802655-3-5


F L I P

B O O L

FOREWORD

T H O M A S

H O N I C K E L

GO A N D

GET

J A N - C H R I S T O P H E R

THE

J O H A N

V

A

N

B E N T Z

THE

M I R E I L L E

YOUR

D E R

V

A

PICTURES!

CAMERA

31

K E U K E N

N

PHOTO

D E N

AND

FILM

B E R G

I N V I S I D L E FIST

D E

15

H O R A K

INFATUATED

RETWEEN

R O E L

7

P U T T E R

F U M 0 6 R A P H Y

74

65

55


F L I P

B O O L

FOREWORD 'Everything but

was

completely

as

I had

imagined

it,

different.'*

PHOTOGRAPHICALLY AND CINEMATICALLY, t h e o e u v r e of Ed v a n d e r

Elsken

c a n be r e a d a s a s e r i e s of e g o d o c u m e n t s w h i c h d e p i c t s h i s w o r l d , or h i s

e x p e r i e n c e of t h a t w o r l d , i n h i s o w n

manner. The

and

very

distinctive

n o t i o n of t h e " p a r t i c i p a t i n g c a m e r a " i s t h e k e y ,

par

e x c e l l e n c e , t o h i s v i s u a l w o r k . His photo b o o k s , by t h e i r s t r u c t u r e a n d c o m b i n a t i o n s of images, are often s t r o n g l y c i n e m a t i c , and his f i l m s , by their unconventional montage, often have the character of a photo book: scenes are like double spreads that, after the page is turned, suddenlg move on to surprising new images. In contrast to the w a g things u s u a l l y are in the f i l m process, Ed van der Elsken w a s g e n e r a l l y p e r s o n a l l y r e s p o n s i b l e for just about every aspect of his f i l m s . He produced, directed, did the camera work and montage, just as w i t h his books he w a s r e s p o n s i b l e for the total result, photographs, text and layout. Furthermore, in his films Ed van der Elsken often picked up the thread of a story that he had e a r l i e r set d o w n p h o t o g r a p h i c a l l y , and vice v e r s a . F i n a l l y , he is not only v i s u a l l y very present in his photo books and f i l m s , but also in the w r i t t e n texts and spoken commentary. His presence is manifest in his very personal and direct manner of expressing himself. A l t h o u g h Van der Elsken r e c e i v e d the Dutch N a t i o n a l Prize for Cinematic Art in 1971 for De verliefde

camera

(The i n f a t u a t e d camera), he is s t i l l k n o w n

p r i m a r i l y as a photographer. Because of this, there has been insufficient u n d e r standing of the powerful interplay between photography and f i l m in his oeuvre. This fact led the N e d e r l a n d s F i l m m u s e u m and the N e d e r l a n d s Fotoarchief, in c o o p e r a t i o n w i t h the Institut N ĂŠ e r l a n d a i s and the M a i s o n

EuropĂŠenne de la

Photographie and together w i t h Anneke van der Elsken, to organize and present the e x h i b i t i o n Ed van der Elsken: Between

Photography

and Film during the " M o i s

de la P h o t o " in Paris in 1996. The relation between these two d i s c i p l i n e s in Ed van der Elsken's life can be s u m m a r i z e d briefly. In 1956 Ed van der Elsken achieved instant international fame w i t h his first photo book. Love on the Left Bank. In 1972, in the f i l m Death in the Port

Jackson


Hotel, he looks back on the photographs from his years in Paris, that he shared w i t h his first wife Ata Kando, and lets us become acquainted w i t h V a l i Myers, the Australian who was the central character in his p h o t o - n o v e l . In 1957 Van der Elsken t r a v e l l e d to French E q u a t o r i a l A f r i c a to v i s i t his b r o t h e r - i n - l a w , w h o w a s w o r k i n g there as an anthropologist. Only a handful of images in the photo book Bagara (1958) remain as w i t n e s s e s to the f i l m that he made there in exchange for p a r t i c i p a t i n g in several safaris. The f i l m itself, alas, has been lost. In 1959-1960, w i t h his second w i f e Gerda v a n der Veen, he made a trip a r o u n d the w o r l d w h i c h w a s p a r t i a l l y f i n a n c e d by m a k i n g the f i l m Van

varen

(About sailing) for the Dutch S h i p o w n e r s ' Association as a gift for the 18th birthday of P r i n c e s s M a r g r i e t , the g o d c h i l d of the Dutch merchant m a r i n e . The f i l m is a testimony that w o r k i n g on commissions was not Van der Elsken's strongest suit. Thus it is a l l the more r e g r e t t a b l e that the fourteen short f i l m s have been lost, w h i c h he made for the AVRO under the title Travelogues.

The appearance of the

photo book about his trip. Sweet Life, ultimately had to wait until 1966. In the i n t e r v e n i n g y e a r s Van der Elsken p h o t o g r a p h e d r e l a t i v e l y little, concentrating on f i l m i n g . The outcome of this. Welkom

in het leven, lieve

kleine

(Welcome to life, dear little one), from 1963, d e a l s w i t h his p e r s o n a l life i n Amsterdam's N i e u w m a r k t neighbourhood and the birth of his son Daan Dorus. A f o l l o w - u p for this f i l m came along in 1981, Welkom

in het leven, lieve kleine

(bisj

(Welcome to life, dear little one - the sequel). The p h o t o g r a p h i c i m a g e s w h i c h d i r e c t l y or i n d i r e c t l g go w i t h these f i l m s were p u b l i s h e d in the photo Amsterdam! "Adorabele

Oude foto's 1947-1970 (Amsterdam! Old Photos) and Jong rotzakken"

1947-1987(Young

books

Nederland.

Netherlands. " A d o r a b l e bastards").

His cinematic s e l f - p o r t r a i t De verliefde

camera (1971) is directly l i n k e d w i t h


the photo books Eye

Love

You (1977) and L'Amour!

Foto's

1950-1990.

appeared posthumously in 1995. A photo book with the title Avonturen

which

op het land

(Adventures in the countryside, 1980) appeared the same year as the f i l m w i t h the same title, and the book Amsterdam .'is 1

filmt Amsterdam

the counterpart to the f i l m Een

fotograaf

(A photographer f i l m s A m s t e r d a m , 1983). This last title speaks

volumes, though: Ed van der Elsken a l w a y s saw himself as a filming photographer, and not as a photographing f i l m m a k e r . However, his love for the f i l m and the still camera was equal. W h e n he had to bid f a r e w e l l to life as the result of an incurable illness, he did this by means of the moving f i l m Bye (1990) and the photo book Once Upon a Time from the same year, d e d i c a t e d to his t h i r d w i f e , Anneke van der E l s k e n Hilhorst. Both titles could have a p p e a r e d on his tombstone at the Grote Kerk in Edam, designed by Jan Bons. It was not by chance that Once Upon a Time won out. After a l l , in artistic terms, Ed van der Elsken the photographer w i n s out over his activities as a f i l m m a k e r . As we have said, however, Ed van der Elsken's films and photographs have verg much in common w i t h each other. Some of the key w o r d s d e s c r i b i n g these c o l l e c t i v e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s are: ego documents, p a r t i c i p a t i n g c a m e r a , u n c o n v e n tional montage/layout, a personal and direct manner of e x p r e s s i o n in the w r i t t e n text and spoken commentary. For Van der Elsken, a photograph was not something that stood alone, but achieved meaning in relation to other photographic images. From the beginning, language was an essential tool for e m p h a s i z i n g his i n v o l v e ment w i t h the subject b e i n g p h o t o g r a p h e d . This, for instance, is a t y p i c a l text accompanying a photograph: "I saw them w a l k i n g along in St. Tropez, in the south of France. ' M a y I take your picture?' Click. 'Salut.' I'll p r o b a b l y never see them a g a i n . " [Eye Love You, 1977). These w o r d s - p a r t i c u l a r l y the last phrase - are characteristic for Van der Elsken. His eye falls on a person, speaks to them, and in a fraction of a second he builds a relationship with them. Because of this, in nearly all his photographs the people pictured are looking into the lens. Candid photography w a s n ' t Van der Elsken's s t y l e . He w o u l d rather get to know his subjects from the i n s i d e out, and his own texts, a l w a g s present in his photo books, underscore that. A programmatic photograph decorates the front e n d paper of Hallo! [W8);

remarkablg enough it is the only photograph in the book not

taken by Van der Elsken himself, and not provided with a written commentary. The photograph shows President Sukarno of the Republic of Indonesia, who is holding Van der Elsken by the beard, w h i l e he has his arm around Sukarno's shoulders. It speaks of an intensive contact, no matter how long or short this may have lasted. In his f i l m s too Van der Elsken is a l w a y s s e e k i n g p e r s o n a l contact. A t g p i c a l


example is a scene in Een fotograaf filmt Amsterdam-, when his presence w i t h the film camera does not attract sufficient attention, he shouts at a passing girl in the Leidsestraat, " H e y , beautiful, look into the c a m e r a ! " " S c u m , creeps, troublemakers, dropouts, rebels, misfits, jerks, sleaze, a s s kissers, gobs, hippies, beatniks, greasers, rockers. Hell's Angels, skinheads, punks, dope smokers, junkies, p i l l heads, v a n d a l s . For one p e r s o n , these are terms of abuse; for another, titles of honour." The i n t r o d u c t i o n to Jong "Adorabele

rotzakken"

1947-1987bitrus

Nederland.

w i t h these words. Theg are a sign of the

c u r i o s i t y that V a n der Elsken a l w a y s s h o w e d for the u n u s u a l a n d the out of the

ordinary. But one could seldom if ever call it voyeurism. Van der Elsken sought the unusual, dived into it unreservedly, and made it a part of his own life. Thus he tells us in Bagara (1958), " L o n g before I got there I had a rather w e l l - d e f i n e d mental image of Central Africa. A land full of blacks: healthy or sick, happy or miserable, pure or u n s p o i l e d . P r i m i t i v e d r u m m i n g a n d radio, i l l i t e r a t e s and professors, e p i d e m i c disease and a n t i b i o t i c s , s t e a m i n g buffalo blood and ice cold d r i n k s . It was particularly these contradictions that fascinated me: the meeting (the conflict?) between the African stone age culture and our 20th century civilization. That's h o w I i m a g i n e d Central A f r i c a ; I went there a n d s t a y e d for three months in the dry season. And everything

was as I had imagined

it, but completely

different. The

blacks didn't seem to be negroes, but black people. It made no sense to distinguish among the whites, into benevolent educators and reactionary despots; there were failures among both groups, frustrated and hated bg the natives; in both groups


there were also the healthy of s p i r i t , s u c c e s s f u l , loved and p o p u l a r among the black p o p u l a t i o n . And w h a t w a s that b e w i l d e r i n g encounter b e t w e e n the U r culture and modern c i v i l i s a t i o n ? N o t h i n g s t r a n g e r than a juke box in a country bar." Far away or close to home, his astonishment at events is no less great. And a sense of humour was not foreign to him. In Sweet Life he writes of a photograph of a black African in shorts, "...there's certainly a very s m a l l touch of 'I'm m a k i n g this guy look ridiculous' here. But in this case, a damned s m a l l touch. And really, if you like these guys, you've also got to be able to laugh at t h e m . " Ed van der Elsken's life revolved around the camera. But he never hid behind it; on the contrary, he used the camera to make contact w i t h the w o r l d around him. He ignored v i s u a l conventions; his amazement w i t h life determined the images. This is equally true for both his photographs and his films. When around 1955 Van der Elsken began to film without ang prior experience, he used the film camera as an extension of his eye. Events plaged themselves out unplanned, and the c i n e matic result awakened in him the desire for more. After a l l , movement is essential for life; f i l m and sound offer different possibilities for comprehending this essence than do photographic images and w r i t t e n text. His own commentary in the photo book Bagara\o\

some film s t i l l s from his encounter w i t h an elephant is r e v e a l i n g

in this regard. Home m o v i e s were long c o n s i d e r e d as a c i n e m a t i c genre that could be i g n o r e d , but recently have become a focus of interest. T r a i n e d in s e e i n g , and p h o t o g r a p h y , in a certain s e n s e Van der Elsken u t i l i z e d his f i l m camera like a maker of home movies, long before this genre began to attract the attention of the f i l m w o r l d . There is a l w a y s a direct relation between the f i l m m a k e r and actor in his work. Ed van der Elsken is a l w a y s literally audible, and in a figurative sense also v i s i b l e , to the people in his photographs and f i l m s . In contrast to the accepted conventions, he drew them out, so that they looked d i r e c t l y into the camera. Chance plays a substantial role in this. As a photographer and filmmaker. Van der Elsken a l w a y s sought direct contact with his "co-stars," whether theg were consciously chosen as such or not. That contact was e s s e n t i a l , although it mag have e x i s t e d for only mere seconds. In a certain sense, his photographic and cinematic oeuvre is a chain of " l o v e s t o r i e s " lasting for longer or shorter periods, a coherent ego document in the positive sense of that w o r d .

*Eo

VAN DER E L S K E N , i n : Bagara 1 9 5 8 .

My

t h a n k s to RUUD VISSCHEDIJK for h i s s u g g e s t i o n s for t h i s

foreword.


T H O M A S

60

H O N I C K E L

AND THE

EET

YOUR

R E N A I 5 5 A N C E

OF

PICTURES! ED

VAN

S U D D E N L Y HI5 WORK IS EN VOGUE AGAIN. S u d d e n l y

DER

E L S K E N

people

remember

him and his photographs, raw and direct, often shrill, vulgar, even obscene, and now and then r e c k l e s s l y romantic. P h o t o g r a p h s of e m o t i o n a n d d r a m a , f u l l of l u s t f o r l i f e a n d m o m e n t a r y

full

delight.

M o s t of the i m a g e s o r i g i n a t e from the streets, there w h e r e most l i v i n g goes on. They are also stolen images, mang taken at night, in spots where the young seek amusement, in front of cinemas and cafĂŠs, in bars and a r t i s t s ' studios. Thus they are necessarily photos at the limits of the technically possible. As far as the fifties, sixties and seventies are concerned Van der Elsken was one of the great street and documentary photographers. One could call him a chronicler of the youth culture of the time, a Ze/tye/sZ-photographer of the generations before and after W o o d stock: a B o h e m i a n amongst photographers. But he was more. He is one of those few photographers who have made their own life the subject of their work. Today, w h e n Nan Goldin is c o n s i d e r e d the most i n f l u e n t i a l photographer, her d i a r y - l i k e w o r k seen as a c h r o n i c l e of the a i d s - g e n e r a t i o n , one starts to look for the roots of this w a y of w o r k i n g . The great d o c u m e n t a r y and street photographers like Robert Frank, W i l l i a m K l e i n and Garry W i n o g r a n d have had sufficient museum honours. Helen Levitt (1918) for e x a m p l e has been remembered in this quest for historical photography,

for her depiction of streetlife in her n e i g h -

bourhood of New York at the end of the thirties. And l i k e w i s e Ed van der Elsken, the Dutch p h o t o g r a p h e r who at the b e g i n n i n g of the fifties pictured a circle of drifting youth in existentialist Paris. This year (1997) Documenta

X is showing Nan

G o l d i n ' s 'forefathers': amongst others W a l k e r Evans, Levitt, w h o m he befriended and i n s p i r e d , and also Van der Elsken. Ed v a n der E l s k e n w a s born in A m s t e r d a m in 1925 into a f a m i l y of l o w e r m i d d l e - c l a s s t r a d e s m e n and w o r k e d through c o m m e r c i a l c o l l e g e . In 1944 after the Battle of Arnhem he was w i t h the m i n e - d i s p o s a l unit and this was where he was first s h o w n the magazine Picture Post by English soldiers, a magazine, f o u n d ed in London by the German emigrant Stefan Lorant, on the lines of the A m e r i c a n


Life. Here lies the seed of his w i s h to become a photographer. Then, in 1947, he d i s c o v e r e d Naked City by the A m e r i c a n s e n s a t i o n a l i s t photographer Weegee. It was to become his art bible and his school of looking: no longer merely attentive and curious but also c l a i m i n g the right to look v o y e u r i s t i c a l l y , even g r e e d i l y , greedy for people and greedy for emotion and drama. (It might be w o r t h w h i l e to mention here that Van der Elsken owned a Speedgraphic, the big camera w i t h flash and reflector that Weegee used. And he had motifs f r o m his o w n

photographs

painted on the 2CV he o w n e d much later in Edam next to a portrait of his i d o l : Weegee remained an inspiration throughout his life.) After the war he first worked for a printing f i r m . But already, without f i n i s h i n g as much as a correspondencecourse in photography, he was part of a circle of photographers. Like the Dutch photographer Emmg Andriesse (1914-1953), who he got to know in Amsterdam, he went to Paris in 1950. At that time Paris was attracting many Dutch and Flemish a v a n t - g a r d e artists. The later Cobra painters Karei Appel, Corneille and Constant were there as well as authors like Bert Schierbeek, Rudg Kousbroek and Hugo Claus. The influence of Weegee can be detected in his first Paris photographs of drunks, homeless people w i t h a l l their belongings, street entertainers and p a r t i c ularly the clochards,

the tramps s l e e p i n g rough out on the streets. He proves to

have an eye for and a love of the outsider. Thus he covers the arrest of a racketeer and - his first publication in France - a crowd gathering in front of a house where a m a d m a n on the s e v e n t h floor is busy t h r o w i n g out a l l his b e l o n g i n g s , to be a p p r e h e n d e d e v e n t u a l l y by the police v i a a fire escape. Looking through the photos one realises his love of being out on the streets, where he literally waited for his themes to appear. One photo is of a car parked in front of CafĂŠ Flore. Only the i n i t i a t e d notice an old man on the v e r y left of the picture, w i t h g l a s s e s , a


c r u m p l e d hat and a scarf. It is the author Paul LĂŠautaud (1872-1956) w h o w o r k s nearby in Rue de CondĂŠ at Mercure

de France, and who is a w e l l known character

in the city. C a r t i e r - B r e s s o n pictured him in 1951 in his garden in F o n t e n a y - a u x Roses, and also Robert Doisneau, two years later, at home s u r r o u n d e d by his legendarg cats. And the emigrant Izis (Israel Bidermanas) did a series on him for Paris-Match.

Van der Elsken's photograph clearly illustrates his method: going out

on the streets to get some pictures. In this case the result was a v a l u a b l e piece of documentation, if it is read closelg. The poetry of the street, considered the h a l l m a r k of Rapho photographers Edouard Boubat, Doisneau, W i l l y Ronis and Sabine Weiss, also emerges from Van der Elsken's photographs. He pictures c h i l d r e n , craftsmen, e l d e r l y people in the park and couples in love on the quays of the Seine. And he makes a photo-series of passers-by in front of gigantic billboards, as Brassa'i did before him. The latter

captured in 1937 a cyclist in front of a l a r g e r - t h a n - l i f e Mariene Dietrich poster. Van der Elsken must have known Brassa'i" s photographs and must have studied them closely. The Brassa'i of the brothels, the o p i u m smokers and the c r i m i n a l s of the Secret Paris of the thirties. Otherwise he could not have found the way to his own style, to the intimacy w i t h w h i c h he observed people, his ability to penetrate the margins of society. This w o u l d also secure him his first breakthrough. But first in 1950 he w o r k e d at the M a g n u m p h o t o - l a b , w h e r e he made prints for the great photographers Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Ernst Haas. Although s t i l l young he n a t u r a l l y w a n t e d to become a m e m b e r of Magnum

as w e l l . He s h o w s his


b i l l b o a r d s - s e r i e s to Cartier-Bresson and is asked: " H o w long did you wait there for these?" The answer is "Two m o n t h s " and Cartier-Bresson's reply: " W e l l ges, in that case..." Van der Elsken receives two i n i t i a l assignments, one about a writer for the Guide Michelin,

but is not hired. And after six months he is sacked from his

job in the lab, after a c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h the chef Pierre G a s s m a n n ; Van der Elsken's s e l f - w i l l e d and uncompromising stance plays up once again. In 1951 he begins to take pictures of an international circle of young people, d r i f t i n g around the cafés and bars of B o u l e v a r d S a i n t - G e r m a i n . These were no longer the existentialists, who had their time in 1947-48 and who frequented the more chic, now l e g e n d a r y , e s t a b l i s h m e n t s . These were the f r e e - s p i r i t e d f o r e -

runners of the protest g e n e r a t i o n and the H i p p i e s . Their cafés and hotels are shabby, alcohol and drugs are part of daily life and petty crime and violence the order of the day. And of course sex. A l l that was new. It must have been the young Australian dancer Vali M y e r s who gave Van der Elsken the idea of f o l l o w i n g round this group with his camera in its a i m l e s s d a y - t o - d a y existence. V a l i M y e r s had come to Paris to find w o r k but she drifted off more and more into an o p i u m induced d e a t h - y e a r n i n g . The best photos are portraits where she, w i t h eternally melancholic, b l a c k - l i n e d eyes is like an angel of death in the centre of it a l l . In one photo she leans, acquiescent, against a w a l l on w h i c h is written 'rêve'. ('dream'; it w a s a c t u a l l y ' g r è v e ' , s t r i k e , but VdE cut out the 'g'.) In another photograph she admires herself in a faded mirror and on a third she n a r c i s t i c a l l y kisses her own r e f l e c t i o n . These are perhaps Van der E l s k e n ' s

most p u b l i s h e d

photographs


because they are the clearest manifestation of a directionless and futureless postw a r youth w h i c h had turned its back on the promises of the previous generation. We now have to w i n d forward a bit. Twenty years later Van der Elsken made a short f i l m on Myers, who in 1972 l i v e d as a hippie and artist in southern Italy. In one scene she tells l a c o n i c a l l y what happened to her friends from the cafés in Paris: " s u i c i d e , d r u g - a d d i c t i o n , overdoses, madhouse...". Thus this f i l m overlaps Nan Goldin's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,

for w h i c h she f o l l o w e d round her

f a m i l y and friends over a long period and w h i c h also ran into an encounter w i t h the process of d y i n g . (More could be s a i d on V a l i M y e r s , for she left her mark e v e r y w h e r e . Bob W i l l o u g h b g also took pictures of her that e x p r e s s her d e a t h g e a r n i n g ; these were part of the German 2nd World Exhibition

of

Photography

(1968) w h i c h had the theme of ' W o m a n ' ; and the old painter Bele Bachem can still be found in S c h w a b i n g , a district in M u n i c h known for it's artistic tradition, with a tattoo on her thumb done by Myers.) But back to P a r i s . In 1953 Edward Steichen, curator of p h o t o g r a p h y for the N e w York M u s e u m of M o d e r n Art, is in Europe to select p h o t o g r a p h s for a m a m m o t h - e x h i b i t i o n he is planning, entitled The Family of Man. He meets Van der Elsken and is so impressed by his S a i n t - G e r m a i n photos that he selects 18 of them for the Post-War

European

Photographg

e x h i b i t i o n in that same year where they

are presented among photographs of Robert Frank, B i l l Brandt and Herbert List. The New

York Times writes on 31 May, 1953: " P r o b a b l y the most e x c i t i n g s i n g l e

instance of this approach is the e i g h t e e n - p r i n t group of candid shots by Ed van der Elsken ... His pictures of student life in the cafés of the Boulevard St. M i c h e l are r o l l i c k i n g documents of carefree youth, the subjects as u n i n h i b i t e d as Weegee's."

And in 1955 Van der Elsken has one photo in The Family

of Man e x -

hibition as w e l l as getting his first s o l o - s h o w , organised by Peter Pollack, curator at the Art Institute in Chicago. And later P o l l a c k p u b l i s h e s a s e l e c t i o n of his photographs in The Picture History of Photographg

(New York, 1958). But Van der

Elsken did not make the leap across the Atlantic, never made a big career for h i m self, despite being w e l l - k n o w n in H o l l a n d . W h e n he died of cancer in 1990 in his house in Edam (Netherlands), the fact went largely unnoticed by the international photography and art community. Let us once more go back to the fifties. In 1954, barely thirty. Van der Elsken married Ata Kando, 12 years his senior, w h o m he got to know in the M a g n u m - l a b s . W i t h her and her three c h i l d r e n he l i v e d in a s m a l l apartment in 5èvres. W h i l s t w i t h i n the four w a l l s b u s i l y d o c u m e n t i n g their s o m e w h a t c r a m p e d but n e v e r theless exuberant f a m i l y life, he was also working on a book of the S a i n t - G e r m a i n photographs. He had a f i n i s h e d story in mind, to be told in an a c c o m p a n y i n g text.


Ata took more photos of exteriors to connect the isolated episodes and places. It is d i f f i c u l t to say w h y Van der Elsken d i d not put enough trust in his o w n 227 photographs to let them speak for themselves; w h y he felt the need to f i l l the gaps between them w i t h narrative. M a y b e there was already the unconscious desire to make f i l m s . Love on the Left Bank was published in Holland, England and Germany. The A m e r i c a n p u b l i s h e r w a n t e d to remove the pictures on w h i c h V a l i M y e r s dances e c s t a t i c a l l y w i t h a Negro m a n , but Van der Elsken did not permit c e n s o r s h i p . Rather than this, he a b a n d o n e d A m e r i c a n p u b l i c a t i o n . Later he s a i d that the art director of Vogue, A l e x a n d e r Libermann, had i m m e d i a t e l y w a n t e d to hire him, but


that they w i t h d r e w when he insisted on only w o r k i n g w i t h d a r k - s k i n n e d models. One has to keep in m i n d this n o n - c o n f o r m i s m w h e n l o o k i n g at Van der Elsken's pictures. For many people they w e r e s i m p l y too direct. S e x u a l desire is often clearly apparent. Never again was a kiss so eager, an embrace so intense, as in these photographs. He portrayed his w r i t e r - f r i e n d Simon Vinkenoog, m a k i n g love to his g i r l - f r i e n d , and also himself in bed w i t h w o m e n , in one instance apparently a p r o s t i t u t e . "It is hard to tell w h e r e h o n e s t y ends and p e r v e r s i o n b e g i n s ," he

once said about his pictures. And in the printing process he increased even further the drama of his subjects. Most dominant in his pictures is black; they are really b l a c k / g r e y or b l a c k / b l a c k - a n d - w h i t e photographs. He put negatives, on w h i c h hardly anything can be made out, in an enhancing chemical until the white comes up as big greg grains. Bg means of long exposure during printing the skies often seem f i l l e d w i t h thundery clouds. And important subjects in the photographs are often surrounded bg halos of light, m a k i n g them more s c u l p t u r a l . He must have been a master in the art of pushing and holding back the light during the p r i n t i n g process. One could call it the Elsken-touch w h i c h distinguishes his photographs. In 1955 he returns to A m s t e r d a m w i t h his wife and c h i l d r e n and again he documents the move into the new house and the p a i n t i n g of the c h i l d r e n ' s b e d r o o m - w a l l s by Karei Appel. No other w e l l - k n o w n photographer recorded his own environment and f a m i l y life w i t h a l l its private moments so meticulously, so i n t i m a t e l y and w i t h such a l m o s t a c c i d e n t a l poetry. But t h i s new book, a sort of


autobiographical picture-novel w h i c h is to be entitled We are Waiting for the Door to Open, is never to see the light of day; just six months after returning he divorces Ata Kando. Then he begins to photograph the Amsterdam jazz scene, w h i c h , along w i t h photographs of concerts and artists, again results in an o b s e r v a t i o n of the social e n v i r o n m e n t of non-conformist youth culture. These young people, earlier on in ties and skirts, later with big hairdos, greasy quiffs and leather jackets, he s h o w s as before on the streets, m o s t l y on S a t u r d a y - n i g h t s , and by the e a r l y s i x t i e s also i n v o l v e d in riots with the police. " E v e r y time, I tried to make the best


P picture of my life ," he would later say, "It would take a lot, gentlemen, to stop me t a k i n g pictures!" In 1959 everything changes. W i t h his new wife Gerda van der Veen, Van der Elsken embarks on a voyage around the w o r l d taking nearly a year. To finance it he not only r e g u l a r l y sends pictures to magazines in A m s t e r d a m , but also f i l m footage w h i c h is broadcast monthly on Dutch t e l e v i s i o n . At the time, he f i l m s in the same w a y that he takes pictures. What he has photographed he subsequently

f i l m s , but s t i l l without the slightest interest in the creation of a story. During his t r a v e l s the p h o t o g r a p h s s t i l l take c e n t r e - s t a g e and on his return he w o r k s for n e a r l y s i x years on their p u b l i c a t i o n , in partnership w i t h the publisher Andreas Landshoff. What w a s to have been c a l l e d Crazy World, comes out under the title Sweet Life, designed, edited and w i t h text by Van der Elsken himself. In p u b l i s h ing terms it w a s a d i s a s t e r , Landshoff r e m e m b e r s today. The first photo i n this


book, w h i c h reads like a f i l m , depicts a m o n u m e n t in w h a t was then B e l g i a n Congo, r e p r e s e n t i n g a confused, beaten s l a v e . In the last of the 154 photos The Liberated

Earth, from Diego Rivera's painting of the same title, beckons us in the

form of a naked w o m a n w i t h long f l o w i n g hair. In b e t w e e n we encounter the people of three continents, a m i d s t their c i t y s c a p e s , y e a r n i n g for m y t h o l o g i e s . W h e n the book came out the German paper Die Zeit wrote about Van der Elsken: " H i s main a c h i e v e m e n t is to have b r o a d e n e d the f i e l d of p h o t o - r e p o r t a g e to include the things in w h i c h people's dreams find their e x p r e s s i o n . This s p i r i t u a l d i m e n s i o n he f i n d s in posters, p o p u l a r art, w a x w o r k s and

amusement-parks."

Repeatedly there are j u x t a p o s i t i o n s in the book of sculptures and p a i n t i n g s put next to the photographs of the people he found on the street. W i t h this attempt to add an interpretation, often along the lines of class-struggle, to what he saw. Van der Elsken went beyond simple street photography for the first time. And again he is helped in this by the darkroom, where he changes and reworks the format and light-balance of the negatives as w e l l as of the prints. W i t h artfully created fields of black he hides the less essential elements and in the grainy whites he conjures essential ones to the fore. "Through this painterly approach his photographs adopt a stance in w h i c h a l l i d y l l i c e x o t i s m disappears, they become p o l i t i c a l , " Die Zeit wrote. But V a n der E l s k e n never a g a i n used t h i s method as c o n s i s t e n t l y as in Sweet Life. Looking back one has to sag that what was perhaps most fateful about this trip around the w o r l d was his encounter w i t h the f i l m - c a m e r a . Van der Elsken paid a heavy price for the new m e d i u m . From then on until his death he was s e a r c h i n g for s o m e t h i n g in between photography and f i l m . He

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not only started to shoot films himself, v i e w s of his own environment and r e f l e c tions on his work, he also offered his s e r v i c e s to directors, first as an assistant, later as a c a m e r a m a n ; his c u r i o s i t y about the m o v i e - i m a g e must have been enormous. And around that time, the b e g i n n i n g of the sixties, Holland saw s o m e t h i n g of a Nouvelle

Vague in f i l m , w h e r e b y the a v a i l a b i l i t y of lighter c a m e r a s

w h i c h were easier to use o n l y added to his desire to e x p e r i m e n t . In his f i l m s .


i r o n i c a l l y , he also used some of his own photographs, or he can be seen t a k i n g pictures and filming. Thus we can see that at some point he started to record sound a l o n g w i t h the photographs. He seems to have i n c r e a s i n g l y mistrusted both mediums; the pure, classic, still photography without sound or editing on the one hand, and on the other the m o v i n g images of the edited, narrative film, w h i c h did away w i t h the self-sufficiency of single pictures. But he never really expressed in his work an i n - d e p t h e x p l o r a t i o n of these boundaries and p o s s i b i l i t i e s . Film appears to have only really interested him as a w a y to document his o w n life, work and w o r k i n g methods. In a l l his f i l m s he adds commentary to the

ED V A N D E I E L S K E N F R O M T H E F I L M : f f * FOTOSfAAF

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images, albeit off-screen. As w i t h his still photography however, he continued to go out onto the street to get his pictures. In the hour-long f i l m Een fotograaf Amsterdam

filmt

(A photographer films Amsterdam), made in 1982, he f i l m e d p a s s e r s -

by on the street, just as he had a l w a y s done in his photographs: w i t h little regard for their consent, indiscreetly focusing onto them as they pass, time after time. One can see the often disapproving reactions of his subjects and hear his own grumpy commentary. In one of his last i n t e r v i e w s he expressed the w i s h to w a l k around " w i t h a camera built into my head, 24 hours a day ," w h i c h w o u l d then record sound and s m e l l as w e l l as image. One of his last photo books, a l l of w h i c h appeared onlg in Holland or Japan by that time, contains photographs t a k e n on the streets of Japan, w h i c h he returned to many times, again attracted by life on the streets and on the fringes of society. He was e v i d e n t l y more popular there than angwhere in Europe; there is apparently even a cafĂŠ there bearing his name. ( M e a n w h i l e a further book on Asia has appeared: Hong Kong represents the city as it w i l l never be seen again. The book with photographs from 1959 is at the same time a belated revenge on the p u b l i s h i n g - f a i l u r e of Sweet Life.) Tokyo, which he had encountered on his voyage round the w o r l d , is also the common ground where Van der Elsken and Nan Goldin both found m a t e r i a l for their s i m i l a r a p p r o a c h e s . The latter produced in 1995, together w i t h Nobuyoshi Araki, the book Tokyo Love dedicated s i m i l a r l y to youth


Go

AND

6 E T

YOUR

P I C T U R E S !

culture. But where they, by picturing their own l i v i n g - e n v i r o n m e n t s , also manage to reflect society as a w h o l e in their book, one cannot say the same about Van der Elsken. His photographs are too much d o m i n a t e d by his very personal rapture in the multifariousness of life and the v i t a l i t y and s e x u a l i t y that are at the source of it. A g a i n and a g a i n he pictured c h i l d b i r t h - i n v o l v i n g his w i v e s , s t r a n g e r s , and

v a r i o u s a n i m a l s as w e l l . He must have had a total f a s c i n a t i o n about this. At an early stage he had already e x p r e s s e d the w i s h "to capture human life from birth until death ." S e x u a l i t y is consequently a m a i n theme in his work, from t e n d e r ness to the s e x u a l act itself, performed by a n i m a l s as w e l l as people. But at the same time a r o m a n t i c , almost n a i v e w a y of l o o k i n g can be felt in many of the p h o t o g r a p h s . It is b e y o n d q u e s t i o n though that he erected a monument to the s e x u a l l i b e r a t i o n of the p o s t - w a r youth g e n e r a t i o n from the fifties through into


the seventies. But from the sixties, w h e n he also starts to use colour, the slogan of the hippie-movement, 'make love, not war', stands like a motto over his work. The Netherlands Photo Archives holds 1QD.QD0 of his black and white and 50.000 of his colour negatives. One can at the least call h i m the c h r o n i c l e r of a time unrestrainedly subjective and for that reason beyond all c o m m e r c i a l i s m , a time, as one might say, before digital TV, the Internet and AIDS. His last work is also his most interesting. In 1989-90, during the 27 months when he was suffering from cancer, he made with his wife Anneke the video Bye. This f i l m , about his o w n d y i n g and the n e c e s s a r y p a r t i n g , may not be of great v i s u a l importance, but for his m e r c i l e s s n e s s t o w a r d s h i m s e l f and his lack of sentimentality it is a true document humain. Perhaps it is here that he succeeds at what he attempted in his films and his photographs: to make a statement that goes beyond the curiosity towards the w o r l d and the criteria of a c c o m p l i s h e d p h o t o graphy. In a telling scene he regrets the fact that he is w h e e l c h a i r - b o u n d w h i l s t

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his colleagues cover the fall of the Berlin w a l l . And even when he is s h o w n the x rays of his pelvis on which the metastases show up more and more, m a k i n g his death ever more certain, he cannot help admiring the singular quality of the images. Jan-Christopher Horak, who made a study of Van der Elsken's films, sees in Bye - metaphorically spoken - the " t r i u m p h of the camera over death ." Van der E l s k e n , w h o s e main m o t i v a t i o n s , a c c o r d i n g to Horak, were " v o y e u r i s m

and

n a r c i s s i s m ," was so i m p a s s i o n e d w i t h life that he could not be bothered about death. And we owe him our gratitude for the concluding words of the film, the best we could w i s h for at the close of our century: " B e strong everybodg. Good luck. Do your best. Show who you are. Bye."


J A N - C H R I S T O P H E R

THE

INFATUATED THE

IN

H O R A K

ONE

F I L M S

OF HIS

OF

ED

CAMERA

VAN

E A R L I E S T F I L M S , Rond

DER

E L S K E N

de wereld

(Around the W o r l d ,

1960), t h e r e i s a s h o t of Ed v a n d e r E l s k e n , n a k e d e x c e p t f o r a s k i m p y bathing

suit, balancing

himself

in the w i n d

between

two

ship's

m a s t s , t a k i n g a p h o t o g r a p h . The image is shot from s l i g h t l y b e l o w against a clear sky, so that it is i m p o s s i b l e to tell how high the photographer has climbed, but the impression is that it is a precarious height, not without danger. Looking out over the h o r i z o n . Van der E l s k e n ' s quick m o v e m e n t s w i t h the tool of his trade e v o k e his energy, his s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e and his f a n a t i c i s m w h e n it comes to his work. More than once on this trip around the w o r l d , documented on film and in his book Sweet Life (1966), he placed himself in mortal danger to get a photograph: in Durban, South Africa, Van der Elsken went alone to a w o r k i n g - c l a s s beer hall in a black township, despite the fact that race riots had occurred earlier that summer and Europeans were seriously discouraged from entering such environments.' In the south M e x i c a n province of Chiapas, Van der Elsken was nearly stoned to death, a c c o r d i n g to his own account, w h e n he p h o t o g r a p h e d a r e l i g i o u s c e r e m o n y at w h i c h no person of European descent had ever before been present.

2

F o l l o w i n g the shot of Van der Elsken on the s h i p ' s mast, there is a s l o w pan down to the mostly naked body of Gerda van der Veen, his wife. She is sitting on deck in a bathing suit, s m i l i n g at the camera as it languidly caresses her legs, hips and breasts. Another shot, later in the same film, s h o w s Gerda under a waterfall, washing her body. Again the camera moves up and down her loins, the film's overt eroticism accentuated by the cool, rushing water, flowing over her body. Again and E0 V A N OER E L S K E N

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a g a i n in this f i l m , as in his p h o t o g r a p h i c and f i l m work in g e n e r a l , Ed v a n der Elsken's camera searches out the female form, d i s c o v e r i n g and taking pleasure in its eroticism. Thus, we have encapsulated in these two images at sea the two essences of Ed van der Elsken's subjectivity, r e v e a l i n g his n a r c i s s i s m and his v o y e u r i s m . For him, the camera only had m e a n i n g if it a l l o w e d him to look, to see and be seen. W h i l e other photographers have e n d e a v o r e d to hide or d o w n p l a y their s u b j e c tivity, or have avoided the s e l f - r e v e l a t o r y elements structurally inherent in their craft, Ed van der Elsken flaunted them. Ed van der Elsken broke down the boundaries between his professional and private sphere, photography and real life. More than most photographers in the latter half of the 20th century, Ed v a n der Elsken's images are documents of his identity as a person, as an artist, as a lover, as a f a m i l y man. He became famous as a street photographer who created overtly subjective portraits of life on the w i l d side, having invented the genre almost s i n g l e - h a n d e d l y , and independently of his colleague, Robert Frank. Yet, w h i l e Frank's subjectivity a l w a y s m a i n t a i n e d a distance, holding back the i n n e r core of his p e r s o n a l i t y in order not to betray to a public a u d i e n c e his private secrets. Van der Elsken has exposed himself w i t h a vengeance, ruthlessly documenting his obsessions, neuroses and flaws, regardless of the public c o n s e quences. In much of his p h o t o g r a p h y and f i l m w o r k , the i m a g e maker is at the center of attention, m a n i f e s t i n g himself not only through his particular point of v i e w but also by often a p p e a r i n g in front of the c a m e r a . His f i l m De camera

verliefde

(The Infatuated Camera, 1971), for e x a m p l e , is a s e l f - p o r t r a i t in w h i c h Ed

van der Elsken places his private life and his work on public v i e w . More than once in his photography and f i l m s , he has p u b l i s h e d images of himself naked in bed w i t h various w o m e n . In his final film. Bye (1990), a horrific, feature length e x p l o ration of the process of d y i n g from cancer, Ed v a n der Elsken again turned the camera on himself, shooting into a mirror, documenting his physical decay and his emotional struggle. This lack of regard for the s e n s i b i l i t i e s of the representatives power, who " p r o t e c t " public morals, turned him into a bete noire\n

some circles,

and certainly did not a l w a y s help to further his professional career. But if Van der Elsken finds a place in the history of photography and film, it w i l l indeed be for his uncompromising attitude towards himself and his subject matter. As a f i l m m a k e r , Ed v a n der E l s k e n ' s career w a s more u n d e r g r o u n d than most. One searches in v a i n for articles or r e v i e w s about his f i l m s in n o n - D u t c h language periodicals and books. Despite a thirty year career as a f i l m m a k e r . Van der Elsken's films have almost never been screened at international festivals, and


even in Holland they have been s h o w n mostly on Dutch television, for w h i c h they were often produced. U n l i k e his proteges, c o l l e a g u e s and f r i e n d s , a m o n g them Johan v a n der Keuken, Fons Rademakers, Jan V r i j m a n and Hans Keller, Van der Elsken's name does not make an appearance in the s t a n d a r d h i s t o r i e s of Dutch cinema.' Even in The N e t h e r l a n d s his p o s i t i o n in the f i l m w o r l d is c o n t r o v e r s i a l , despite the fact that he w o r k e d for y e a r s as a c a m e r a m a n on the f i l m s of other directors. Neither of the two Dutch f i l m periodicals, Skoop and Skrien, have to date published articles on Van der Elsken's career as a filmmaker. When Van der Elsken died in 1990, Skrien ignored the event altogether and Skoop published an e i g h t line obituary, giving three times as much space in the same issue for their f a r e w e l l s to Leonid Trauberg and Joan Bennett.

4

W h y this neglect? W h e n he won the Dutch National Film A w a r d in 1971 for his f i l m De verliefde camera, there were protests from w i t h i n the industry. If the 5

truth be known. Van der Elsken was not w e l l liked by his colleagues. As Evelyn de Regt notes, "At the t e l e v i s i o n studios in H i l v e r s u m , however. Van der Elsken was not a popular cameraman. Most directors found his images too little in focus, too sooty, and felt his camera moved around too much. They were also w a r y of his tendency to meddle w i t h the shots and pass comment from behind the camera. He was generally at loggerheads with the cutters, because he did not agree w i t h the editing."

6

In 1991 Van der Elsken's Bye, c o m p l e t e d l i t e r a l l y w e e k s before his death, received an award for the best Dutch documentary broadcast on t e l e v i s i o n . Since then, interest in his films has s l o w l y begun to increase, w i t h major retrospectives at the M a i s o n Européenne de la Photographie in Paris (1996), the Nederlands F i l m museum in A m s t e r d a m (1997), and the F i l m m u s e u m in M u n i c h (1998). However, lack of preservation and a v a i l a b i l i t y s t i l l hampers research into his f i l m work.

7

A number of his films only exist in fragmentary or incomplete form. The perceived lack of technical perfection in Ed van der Elsken's film work was a function of his film aesthetics. Although Ed van der Elsken's films have little in common w i t h the aesthetics of cinéma

vérité, he appropriated their technology

to his own aesthetic ends. Due in part to his training as a photographer, and in part to character traits which often made it difficult to work w i t h him. Van der Elsken functioned best alone or w i t h his wife (who handled sound). In an industry w h i c h thrives on group dynamics and effort, such a " l o n e w o l f " status made him a pariah. At best, he managed to work w i t h a sympathetic director when hired as a c a m e r a man. He l i k e d to shoot fast and w i t h a high degree of f l e x i b i l i t y for camera m o v e ment, f i l m i n g in real locations under a v a i l a b l e light conditions. His early f i l m s


were shot w i t h a 16mm s i l e n t Bolex, w h i c h he later had m o d i f i e d w i t h a h o m e made b l i m p , a s y n c h r o n o u s motor, an a l u m i n u m breast harness to g i v e h i m a steady image, and special light s e n s i t i v e lenses. In 1964 he bought a 16mm Eclair 8

Cine camera, w h i c h w h e n used in c o n j u n c t i o n w i t h a Uher tape recorder could shoot synchronous sound under the most difficult of production conditions. In the early 1970s, he s w i t c h e d to a Super 8mm f i l m c a m e r a in order to shoot more c h e a p l y and, more important, more i n c o n s p i c u o u s l y . After c o m p l e t i n g s e v e r a l more films in 16mm in the 1980s, he used a Super VHS video camera to record his last f i l m . The u t i l i z a t i o n of these s e m i - p r o f e s s i o n a l and amateur f i l m f o r m a t s indicates that Van der Elsken was more interested in the spontaneity and freedom of movement that low tech e q u i p m e n t c o u l d give him than in the t e c h n i c a l perfection of professional equipment, d e m a n d i n g larger f i l m crews and increased s e t - u p time. Given the i n t e r n a t i o n a l f i l m a v a n t - g a r d e ' s p r e d i l e c t i o n for l i g h t , portable equipment. Van der Elsken was certainlg not alone in d e v e l o p i n g such a fast and loose a e s t h e t i c , but he was an a n o m a l y w i t h i n the Dutch t e l e v i s i o n industry in the 1960s. Ed van der Elsken's first contact w i t h the cinema had come in the late 1940s, w h e n he spent a lot of time in an art house in A m s t e r d a m . In 1955 the Dutch t e l e v i s i o n station, AVRO, produced a program based on his S a i n t - G e r m a i n - d e s PrĂŠs photographs. Although he was d i s s a t i s f i e d w i t h the program, his interest in f i l m m a k i n g w a s s p a r k e d . In the same year, he and a f r i e n d . Jan V r i j m a n , w e r e c o m m i s s i o n e d by VPRO to make a d o c u m e n t a r y about the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, but the two f i l m n o v i c e s ' s footage and sound w a s completely unusable due to t e c h n i c a l i n a d e q u a c i e s . Two more films bg the pair, though completed, were not much better. In 1959, Van der Elsken received a contract from the Rogal Dutch S h i p o w n e r s ' Association to make a f i l m for Princess Margriet of The Netherlands (the godchild of the Merchant Marine), in honor of her coming of age in 1961. Van der Elsken and his wife Gerda were to be given free first class passage on ang freighter in the Dutch fleet for an a r o u n d - t h e - w o r l d sea voyage. To further finance the voyage. Van der Elsken contracted for a series of short travelogues for Dutch TV (AVRO), and Gerda wrote a journal for a Dutch illustrated magazine. Theg set s a i l in August, 1959, for Africa, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to China, the P h i l i p p i n e s and Japan, traveled on to the U.S. and Mexico, and returned to Amsterdam in September, 1960. A 35mm reflex camera in one hand, a 16mm Bolex film camera in the other. Van der Elsken documented evergthing. The result was a ten-part series on AVRO, a d o c u mentary, Van varen [About Sailing.

1961), a seventeen part photo-reportage in the

Dutch Catholic illustrated magazine Katholieke

Illustratie,

and a book. Sweet Life.


The footage for the series. Rond de wereld,

broadcast in roughly ten minute

segments between 1959 and I960, was sent en route to Hilversum with instructions for e d i t i n g and a script for the n a r r a t i o n . Dnlg a 38 minute montage a p p a r e n t l y survives, edited without sound. Since the footage has no head titles, it is unclear whether Van der Elsken himself edited it down from its o r i g i n a l length, but given the f i l m ' s s o p h i s t i c a t e d e d i t i n g , it seems l i k e l y .

Indeed, the s u r v i v i n g f i l m is

9

edited w i t h o u t much regard for t e m p o r a l or s p a c i a l c o n t i n u i t i e s in a stream of consciousness, free form style. As stated above, the film begins w i t h Ed and Gerda on board a freighter. The next sequence has them t r a v e l i n g through the United States, s l e e p i n g in their car.

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c a m p i n g out, and horseback r i d i n g . Cut to Japan, after a brief scene in the Van der Elsken's stateroom where Ed is d e v e l o p i n g 35mm f i l m and Gerda is banging out a journal on a portable t y p e w r i t e r . A montage of numerous Japanese men and women bowing, even when telephoning, is followed by shots in Africa and M e x i c o , before the f i l m cuts back to a W i l d West s h o w in the United States. Later, a sumo w r e s t l i n g sequence is f o l l o w e d by wrestlers on American t e l e v i s i o n , cut together w i t h two black Americans on the street in Harlem, fighting, and a fist fight between black c h i l d r e n . Still later. Van der E l s k e n creates an e l a b o r a t e sequence of P h i l i p p i n e strippers, Africans d a n c i n g . Native A m e r i c a n s d a n c i n g , a Zulu dance spectacle (the latter identifiable through a "Europeans o n l y " sign). North African dancers, and a Noh performance. At another point, he cuts together a sequence of stone lions from v a r i o u s parts of the w o r l d , an o b v i o u s homage to Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin

(1925).

Without a narration, the footage is only identifiable w i t h the help of Sweet Life. In fact, many of the s t i l l images in the book are found in a s l i g h t l y different form in the f i l m : for instance, a scene of African f i s h e r m a n p u l l i n g in their nets, s a n d w i c h e d b e t w e e n Coneg Island beach shots and footage taken at a " s e a w o r l d " - t g p e aquarium in California, is onlg identifiable through Van der Elsken's photographs of the same scene, taken in Freetown, Sierra Leone. A comparison of 10


the photos and f i l m scene r e v e a l s the s i m i l a r i t i e s and d i f f e r e n c e s in V a n der Elsken's vision in the two m e d i a . First, it needs to be noted that Van der E l s k e n ' s photographs, as w a s his style, cover the page completely, without borders, so that the two photographs on facing pages l i t e r a l l y seem to bleed into each other." The photograph on the left is taken from very close to the shore and s h o w s a group of African men (covering the bottom 2/3 of the image) p u l l i n g fish from a net, the horizon and sky m a r k i n g the upper third of the image. In the upper left hand corner we see a fish s u s p e n d ed in the air, as if c o m p l e t e l y i n d e p e n d e n t from the group. The photo is b a c k l i g h t e d , so that mang d e t a i l s are e l i m i n a t e d , l e a v i n g a h i g h contrast i m a g e in w h i c h the men and f i s h a p p e a r a l m o s t as s i l h o u e t t e s . I n t e r e s t i n g l y , a n o t h e r

s e e m i n g l y larger f i s h , s u s p e n d e d in the air, is at the focal point of the second image, in w h i c h the sky covers the top 2/3 of the image and the upper bodies of the men are seen at the very bottom of the image. These two photographs are c i n e matic, in the s e n s e that their open c o m p o s i t i o n s i n v i t e us to i m a g i n e the space beyond the frame. Secondly, the montage of the two images essentially duplicates a long shot - m e d i u m shot construction, a standard convention in f i l m editing. On the other hand, the simultaneity of the two images, a l l o w i n g the v i e w e r to c o m pare and contrast the images, is only p o s s i b l e in photography. None of the ten shots in the f i l m sequence duplicate the two photographic images in the book. We see the net being hauled in, the fish being pulled from the net and thrown up on the beach, where theg are tossed up the beach even further to women who carry away the fish in baskets. In Sweet Life Van der Elsken e x p l a i n s this process in his " c a p t i o n s " at the front of the book. M o v i n g his c a m e r a frequently to f o l l o w the movement of objects and persons. Van der Elsken presents an activity in time, thus


focusing much more attention on the process. The m y s t e r i o u s l y f l y i n g fish of the photographs, suspended above the heads of the men and pregnant w i t h s y m b o l i c m e a n i n g , loose their m e t a p h o r i c q u a l i t y in the f i l m , b e c o m i n g no more than a detail in a scene from everyday life in Africa. Clearly, Van der Elsken's point of v i e w is that of tourist with an eye for the p i c t u r e s q u e . His c o n c e n t r a t i o n on i n d i v i d u a l s and groups i n t e r a c t i n g in p u b l i c spaces is noticeable. Architecture, except for a few rare shots of Hong Kong and New York, seems to be of little interest to him. Public events - bull fights, b a s e b a l l . W i l d West s h o w s , sumo w r e s t l i n g , public dance d i s p l a g s - a l l o w h i m to capture exotic events, w h i l e his street images of p e d e s t r i a n s l i k e w i s e focus on those v i e w s most a p p e a l i n g to a European audience before the age of m a s s t o u r i s m . W h i l e a certain percentage of the shots were e v i d e n t l y made w i t h the acquiescence of the subjects, who pose for the camera, many shots have an i m provised, fleeting look to them. Van der Elsken's b i o g r a p h e r E v e l y n de Regt notes that it was on this trip, specifically in Japan, that Van der Elsken discovered his own stgle of photography: " W i t h his J a p a n e s e work, he r e v e a l e d the k i n d of r e a l i t y and moments he was l o o k i n g for - moments in w h i c h a series of minor dramatic incidents converged, partly in reaction to his d y n a m i c presence."' Even when the subjects are posing, 2

then, they hardly have time to become conscious of their p o s i t i o n , so that their image is more a reflection of the photographer's subjectivity than a collaboration w i t h the person depicted. In contrast to the many photographs of poverty w h i c h are p u b l i s h e d in Sweet Life without pathos or a sense of social injustice, onlg a few such sequences are seen in the film. Given the fact that Van der Elsken's main goal was to produce a " t r a v e l o g u e " and " p r o p a g a n d a " f i l m , he undoubtedly felt the need to censor himself w h e n holding his Bolex. About Sailing was completed after Van der Elsken's return to Holland. The narration and stgle of Van varen was n e c e s s a r i l y i m p e r s o n a l , because the twenty minute film's goal was to present the Dutch merchant marine in a positive light. The short opens with seamen taking leave of their loved ones on the pier, before setting sail. On board the work of officers and crew, as well as their private living quarters, are visualized. The next segment depicts various harbors of the world, then follows the sailors on shore leave: Disnegland, strip joints in the Philippines, Coneg Island. Here the film strikes a melancholg note when the narrator points out the essential loneliness of the sailors, a l w a y s " o b s e r v i n g life from the outside." The film ends, however, with a patriotic image a w a v i n g Dutch flag, back-lighted by the sun. An atmosphere of romantic adventure is i m m e d i a t e l y created with the film's first image, a s i l h o u e t t e d s a i l b o a t g l i d i n g across a s h i m m e r i n g sea. The w e l l -


c o m p o s e d , b a l a n c e d images, w i t h a n u m b e r of p r o m i n e n t h i g h angle shots of seamen and officers, contribute to the " h e r o i c , " l a r g e r - t h a n - l i f e mood of the f i l m . The s e n s e of r o m a n t i c i s m is also u n d e r s c o r e d by the f i l m ' s n a r r a t i o n , w h i c h is consciouslg literary, unlike the conversational tone of Van der Elsken's later f i l m s . U t i l i z i n g repetition in a manner w h i c h clearly reproduces the poetic cadences of Pare Lorentz's The River (1937), the narrator chants the n a m e s of ports of c a l l , goods loaded and unloaded. Given the f i l m ' s w h o l l y different intentions, it is not surprising that only a few shots from the f i l m ("sea w o r l d " , Disneyland) remind us of Sweet Life or Rond de Wereld. In the same year as About Sailing,

Van der Elsken completed the first of a

s e r i e s of f i l m s about artists a n d art e x h i b i t i o n s . Bewogen

beweging

(Moving

M o t i o n , 1961), a project i n i t i a t e d by the d i r e c t o r of the S t e d e l i j k M u s e u m i n Amsterdam, W i l l e m Sandberg, documented in s l i g h t l y less than five minutes an e x h i b i t i o n by the same name. The Stedelijk e x h i b i t i o n , w h i c h i n c l u d e d work by

ED V A N D E R E L S K E N

FROM THE FILM:

BIWOBEN BEWE6IN6 [ M O V I N G M O T I O N ] 1 9 8 1

Jean Tinguely, M o h o l y - N a g y [Lightprop.

1930) and mobiles by A l e x a n d e r Calder,

presented m o v i n g sculptures. A c c o r d i n g l y , V a n der Elsken d e c i d e d to move his camera in a fashion which would accentuate the d y n a m i s m of the art on d i s p l a y , the camera t a k i n g on the w h o l l y subjective v i e w of a museum visitor. Beginning w i t h a pan up a sculpture outside the m u s e u m ' s main entrance. V a n der Elsken tracks through the m u s e u m ' s e x h i b i t i o n h a l l . After cutting to shots of v a r i o u s sculptures in motion, intercut w i t h reaction shots of visitors, e s p e c i a l l y c h i l d r e n . Van der Elsken creates a fast-paced montage of m o v i n g sculpture parts, as if the sheer d g n a m i s m of the e x h i b i t i o n has lead to a m e n t a l b r e a k d o w n of the f i l m m a k e r / v i s i t o r . The f i l m closes b r e a t h l e s s l y w i t h a fast action track through the e x h i b i t i o n from back to front, s t o p p i n g p e r i o d i c a l l y and b r i e f l y at a n u m b e r of sculptures, before ending in front of the M u s e u m , where the f i l m had begun. V a n der Elsken thus tries to reproduce the l i t e r a l path of the v i s i t o r t h r o u g h the e x h i b i t i o n hall, as w e l l as the subjective emotions conjured up by the art on d i s play. In particular, the f i n a l minute of the f i l m , where the m o v i n g camera races


past, around and in between visitors and sculptures, was an i m p r e s s i v e piece of camera work, given the need to work under a v a i l a b l e light conditions and also of c o n t i n u a l l y p u l l i n g focus to keep the image sharp. The overt s u b j e c t i v i t y of the film, emphasizing the spectator's position as a consumer of art, placed it in sharp contrast to the normally staid conventions of art historical documentaries. The year 1961 also w i t n e s s e d the production of yet another f i l m by Van der Elsken, Karei Appel, Componist

(1961). The Dutch action painter. K a r e i A p p e l , had

been a f r i e n d of Van der Elsken since their time together as bohemians in Paris in the early 1950s. Appel-iep

13

Earlier in 1961, Van der Elsken had made a verg short f i l m ,

(The Appel Elm, 1961), which showed Appel painting the trunk of an elm

tree in his studio, then t a k i n g it to a public park where the reactions of p a s s e r s by w e r e f i l m e d .

14

Van der Elsken was hired by the P h i l i p s Radio Company to

photograph Appel w h i l e he composed the Musique De werkelijkheid

Barbare for Jan Vrijman's f i l m .

van Karei Appel (The Realitg of K a r e i A p p e l , 1961).

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Recording

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Appel's composition in the studio and bits of dialogue between Appel and Vrijman on a s m a l l tape recorder w h i l e p h o t o g r a p h i n g the two artists. V a n der Elsken subsequently decided to make a film, made up of his recorded sound, still images, f i l m footage and some footage he had shot in New York in Appel's studio a year earlier w h i l e on his w o r l d tour. The result was an e x p e r i m e n t a l f i l m rather than a documentary, a free form collage of images and music, black leader w i t h sound and still photographs, moving camera shots and snippets of mostly u n i n t e l l i g i b l e d i a l o g u e . An artist at w o r k , p l a y i n g drums, e n d l e s s l y m i x i n g recorded sounds, l i s t e n i n g , splicing audio tape, dancing in euphoria, sitting in a corner in e x h a u s tion: Van der Elsken's f i l m covers all the bases of the creative process in repetitive detail. The result, however, is not a chronological e x p l i c a t i o n of the creation of a work of art, but rather a chaotic, at times e m o t i o n a l outburst, much like A p p e l ' s scream on the soundtrack which opens the f i l m as the camera lingers on a portrait of the artist. "The creative man stands in d i s a r r a y w i t h his s e l f - e x p r e s s i o n . And he stands alone," says Appel in one of the few intelligible verbal statements in the


f i l m . Karei Appel, Composer ends w i t h the artist s i g n i n g his name to a p a i n t i n g , w h i l e Van der Elsken can be heard on the soundtrack s a y i n g , "So that was i t . " The f i l m was s h o w n at the Stedelijk M u s e u m . Sandberg hired Van der Elsken a year later to document in photographs the construction of a much talked about e x h i b i t i o n at the Stedelijk, Dylaby. The photog r a p h s were p u b l i s h e d in the e x h i b i t ' s catalogue. He also made a f i l m ,

Dylaby

11962), v i s u a l i z i n g the completed " d y n a m i c l a b y r i n t h . " The artists participating in the conception of the labyrinth included Robert Rauschenberg, Jean Tinguely, N i k i de St. Phalle and Daniel Spoerri. Again, Van der Elsken a p p l i e d the point of v i e w technique of a visitor to the e x h i b i t i o n , panning and tracking in his opening shot from the e x h i b i t i o n ' s entrance through a hall to the e x h i b i t i o n proper. Again, he inserts throughout the film reaction shots of the audience v i e w i n g the i n s t a l l a t i o n . This e x h i b i t i o n w a s i n t e r a c t i v e , a l l o w i n g v i s i t o r s to p a r t i c i p a t e in d a n c i n g the " T w i s t , " a shooting gallery and a balloon room for kids. At ten minutes in length, the film moves at a much slower pace than Moving

Motion, attempting through its

r o v i n g camera and composition to duplicate the actual experience of perception, down to the fact that some scenes are extremely dark, almost i n v i s i b l e , because the museum v i s i t o r was asked to feel his/her w a y through a dark tactile e n v i r o n ment. In Daniel Spoerri's " U p s i d e - D o w n R o o m " on the other hand. Van der Elsken's c a m e r a moves 9 0 째 a r o u n d its own a x i s , a p p r o x i m a t i n g the p e r c e p t u a l chaos encountered bg the visitor entering the room.

16

In 1965 Van der Elsken produced an eight minute d o c u m e n t a r y about the international short film festival in Oberhausen, Germany, Oberhausen, deutsche

Kurzfilmtage

XI.

West-

(1965). Like two of his previous films. Van der Elsken begins

w i t h a shot outside the festival h a l l , then cuts to the c l e a n i n g l a d i e s in the empty projection space. A fast action sequence s h o w s the a u d i e n c e t a k i n g their seats until the theater is f i l l e d . After p a n n i n g over the crowd and a few c l o s e - u p s of i n d i v i d u a l s . Van der Elsken presents a montage of shots f i l m e d off the screen. The clips of films from the festival are not in chronological order, but are rather edited according to their subject matter: shots of M a r t i n Luther King [The March, Fidel Castro, flood victims in Asia and a Nazi Party Rally [The Daily Life of

1964), Gestapo-

man Schmidt, Poland) are followed by erotic shots from various films, and by films d o c u m e n t i n g s e n s a t i o n a l events: b o x i n g [Cassius fights, auto racing [Autorennen),

le Grand, W i l l i a m Klein), b u l l

h o r s e - r a c i n g [A Sunday at the Races, Yugoslavia)

and the production of a H o l l y w o o d f i l m epic [Hollywood

in Deblatschka

Pescara,

Germany). The a w a r d s ceremony was depicted as a montage of eighteen different hand-shakes. In fact. Van der Elsken tries throughout to inject humor into the film. The " e r o t i c " sequence thematizes male audience v o y e u r i s m by intercutting a shot


of a leering man with screen images of beautiful women, followed by scenes from the films of various men looking at women. As in earlier films. Van der Elsken also includes his own photographs, for example, of a legendarg a l l - n i g h t panel d i s c u s sion. On the other hand, a group portrait of the festival's filmmakers is occasion for a perceptual joke: it appears to be a photograph, because everyone in the image is a b s o l u t e l y m o t i o n l e s s , except for one person in the group w h o is c o n s c i o u s l y moving ever so slightly. The film ends with a humorous little animation of the 111th Oberhausen Film Festival in the year 2065. The f i l m w a s broadcast on VPRO." W h i l e b e g i n n i n g work as a cameraman and f i l m s t i l l s photographer for hire for, among others, Fons Rademakers's The Spitting

Image (1962) and Jan V r i j m a n ' s

On the Bottom Rung of Heaven (1963), Van der Elsken i n i t i a t e d his first personal project, a thirty minute film. Welkom

in het leven, lieve kleine (Welcome to Life,

Dear Little One, 1963).' The occasion w a s the birth of his second child w i t h Gerda, B

Daan Dorus. The film opens with Ed, Gerda and their two gear old daughter Tinelou

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d r i v i n g through A m s t e r d a m , then cuts to shots of Gerda and Tinelou at home in their flat: a home movie. A s l o w pan from the w i n d o w of their flat o v e r l o o k i n g the N i e u w m a r k t Square introduces the next segment, which presents a portrait of the neighborhood. After another " h o m e " sequence, which includes numerous portraits of mother and child. Van der Elsken cuts to a sequence of a carnival on the N i e u w markt. The f i l m ends w i t h a scene of the birth of the new baby. Welcome

to Life is the first of V a n der E l s k e n ' s overtlg a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l

films, demonstrating mang s t y l i s t i c elements w h i c h would be t y p i c a l for his later f i l m s . The portrait of h i s n e i g h b o r h o o d , for e x a m p l e , consists of numerous pan shots of pedestrians w a l k i n g on the street, often aware that they are being filmed, but s o m e t i m e s not. S i m i l a r in s t y l e to h i s street photographs, these

images

replicate the gaze of a person sitting in a s i d e - w a l k cafe people-watching. Second, the camera w o r k is e x t r e m e l y m o b i l e , in p a r t i c u l a r in a scene w h e r e V a n der Elsken stumbles upon a street fight - the camera literally darts through the crowd, around the m e n i n v o l v e d , w i t h o u t a c t u a l l y s h o w i n g the fight - and the later


carnival sequence, in w h i c h the editing further emphasizes the d y n a m i s m of the movement. Third, Van der Elsken cuts together w h o l e sequences of s t i l l p h o t o g r a p h s , w h i c h create a c o m p l e t e l y different rhythm in contrast to the m o v i n g image sequences. These shots are intimate, rather than public: Gerda resting on a sofa, close-up portraits of his wife and daughter. Lastly, Van der Elsken's n a r r a tion is consciously chatty, as if talking to a friend or s h o w i n g home movies to an a s s e m b l g of relatives who live elsewhere. The film is literally framed by two shots in the mirror, creating, respectively, a s e l f - p o r t r a i t of the artist and cameraman w i t h child, and a portrait of the now expanded f a m i l g . More than ten years earlier Van der Elsken had taken a number of a u t o - p o r t r a i t s

in mirrors: alone w i t h his Leica (1951); w i t h Juliette

and

M a d e l e i n e , the twins of his first wife (1951); w i t h V a l i M y e r s (1952); with his wife, Ata K a n d o (1952).

19

I m a g e s in the m i r r o r t u r n up a g a i n a n d a g a i n i n V a n der

Elsken's f i l m s . W h y ? The mirror allows the photographer to gaze through his lens at the objects of his desire, and to look at himself looking, bring both narcissistic and v o y e u r i s t i c urges into p l a y . Such mirror i m a g e s are, thus, p r e g n a n t w i t h psychoanalgtic

meaning.

Theg remind us of what Jacques Lacan has called the p r e - O e d i p a l , n a r c i s sistic phase of development of the ego, "the mirror phase," w h e n primary i d e n t i fication occurs: a child looks in the mirror and recognizes his body as a coherent whole.'" For the first time, he sees himself as an identity w i t h i n the w o r l d . With the realization of lack, in the Oedipal phase, the security of primary identification is forever lost. The gaze into the mirror, then, represents a futile attempt to recover the plentitude and security of identity of primary narcissism. The mirror into which


Van der Elsken points his camera reflects in a Lacanian sense, therefore, not the real but rather the idealized, s y m b o l i c self, thus s a t i s f y i n g his narcissism. Indeed, the image of Van der Elsken looking w i t h his child in the mirror exactly replicates Lacan's description of the parent holding the c h i l d up to the mirror: " B y c l i n g i n g to the reference point of him who looks at him in a mirror, the subject sees a p p e a r ing, not his ego i d e a l , but his ideal ego, that point at w h i c h he desires to gratify himself in himself." ' But through the s y m b o l i c order, narcissism is also i n v a r i a 2

blg l i n k e d to v o y e u r i s m . According to Lacan's interpretation of Freud, the scopic drive (scopophilia) is rooted in the subject, in the fact that in the act of gazing the subject sees himself. The mirror allows the filmmaker to see himself looking, thus 22

i n c r e a s i n g the overt v o g e u r i s t i c p l e a s u r e of the subject. Few p h o t o g r a p h e r s or f i l m m a k e r s have so overtly defined themselves not just authors outside the text, but also the subject w i t h i n the text. But in the context of Welcome to Life, the two mirror images of Van der Elsken w i t h his camera also point to the f i l m ' s extreme s e l f - r e f l e x i v i t g , its e x p o s u r e of the c i n e m a t i c a p p a r a t u s . From the f i l m ' s very beginning. Van der Elsken intercuts numerous photographs and live action shots of the process of f i l m m a k i n g . Earlg on we see Tinelou i n t e r v i e w i n g her doll w i t h a microphone; later we see the f i l m m a k e r in a photograph, holding his portable tape recorder; s t i l l later we see him i n t e r v i e w i n g a m e c h a n i c , testing his car's engine. Thus, Welcome to Life is a portrait of his f a m i l g , of his neighborhood, and of his s e l f - i m a g e as a photographer and f i l m m a k e r . It is the first of many. Van der Elsken had found the topic w h i c h fascinated him the most, his own life. This turning i n w a r d may be the reason he never completed the only overtly p o l i t i c a l f i l m he ever attempted. Grenzen shortly after Welcome to Life).

21

van het leven (probably shot in 1964,

According to his biographer. Van der Elsken was

to receive a c o m m i s s i o n from the Dutch M i n i s t r y of Education, Art and Culture to shoot a film in the Waterlooplein district of Amsterdam, which was to be torn down to make way for the new Amsterdam city h a l l . (The c o m m i s s i o n apparently never came through.) On the surface the project sounded good: a film about the street life V a n der Elsken l o v e d . The u n e d i t e d footage b e g i n s w i t h a b u i l d i n g being torn d o w n in w i n t e r , then m o v e s on to capture street life in the

working-class

neighborhood: children going to school through dark, dirty streets; houses f a l l i n g apart; a seaman returning home; an old couple w i t h a retarded child. But the f i l m also goes indoors to document the abject l i v i n g conditions of a poor f a m i l y . The scenes of four children going to sleep in the same bed w h i l e a t e l e v i s i o n flickers in the background remind one of leftist films of the p r e - W o r l d War II period. These scenes were a p p a r e n t l y s u p p o s e d to be j u x t a p o s e d to scenes at an a u t o m o b i l e s h o w (we see Porsches, Rolls Royces) where the w e a l t h y seem to frolic. Van der


Elsken must have realized, however, that this " d i a l e c t i c m o n t a g e " was too thin to base a whole film on it. Or perhaps he lost interest in the project when the funding failed to materialize. S i g n i f i c a n t l y , De verliefde

camera

(The Infatuated Camera, 1971) , a f o r t y 24

three minute f i l m w h i c h Van der Elsken made s e v e r a l years later, begins w i t h the birth of a child, just as the e a r l i e r f i l m ended w i t h one. The crucial difference in the two birth sequences is that it is not his wife or child, nor the event, w h i c h is of interest to the camera in the new f i l m ; rather, it is Van der E l s k e n the p h o t o grapher, d o c u m e n t i n g a birth, who is p l a c e d at absolute center stage in the narrative. The sequence ends, p r e d i c t a b l y , w i t h Van der Elsken l o o k i n g d i r e c t l y into the camera, s m i l i n g , s e l f - s a t i s f i e d . As if to confirm that Van der Elsken is both the author outside the text and the subject w i t h i n the text, the greater part of the f i l m that f o l l o w s has Van der Elsken t a l k i n g directly to the camera in his trademark conversational tone about his photography, his world travels, his meetings with famous people and his erotic adventures. In a scene in the m i d d l e of the f i l m we see Van der Elsken, bare chest e x p o s e d , c o n d u c t i n g a photo shoot w i t h naked f e m a l e m o d e l s . The m o d e l s are clearly v i s i b l e but discreetly in the background, so as not to distract the audience's attention from the bodg of the photographer, w h i c h seems to be literally charged w i t h p h a l l i c energy. In the two v e r y long c l o s i n g shots. Van der Elsken is seen

ED V A N D E I E L S K E N

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d r i v i n g his c o n v e r t i b l e through an open f i e l d , d e c l a i m i n g a p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l manifesto to the camera w h i l e in the second shot, thanks to a f i s h - e y e lens, the wife, children and landscape rushing by frame his image. The rest of the f i l m records Van der Elsken's comments as he pulls p h o t o g r a p h s from his f i l e s , f i l m scenes from his shelf, narrates t h e i r content and e x p l i c a t e s their m e a n i n g . The i m a g e s s h o w n f a l l roughly into two c a t e g o r i e s , erotic and photojournalistic. After the birth sequence Van der Elsken pans over a s e r i e s of black and w h i t e p h o t o g r a p h s of nudes, cuts to a p r e - t e e n a g e c o u p l e k i s s i n g , then to color photographs of a couple intensely m a k i n g love and to a f i l m


sequence of the same couple. Later, he s h o w s us images of himself in bed with a black prostitute (Africa), then erotic photos from his " p l a y b o y " phase in the late 1960s. W h i l e on the soundtrack the photographer m a t t e r - o f - f a c t l y confesses his pleasure in s e e i n g w e l l - f o r m e d human bodies, his r e v e l i n g in the s e n s u a l i t y of naked f l a s h , and his unapologetic v o y e u r i s m , the i m a g e s also document his unadulterated e x h i b i t i o n i s m . The narcissistic tone of the " e r o t i c " image sequences also marks the p h o t o j o u r n a l i s t i c sequences. Repeatedly we are s h o w n Van der Elsken w i t h famous persons (Prince Sihanouk, Sukarno, Castro), and we hear of his adventures w h i l e

ED V A N D E R E L S K E N

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MATH

IN THI

fOIT JACKSON HOTIL 1 9 7 2

traveling around the w o r l d as a photo-reporter and f i l m m a k e r . Due to the running commentary, even the photo journalistic images are marked by the author's overt subjectivity and his n a r c i s s i s m , i d e n t i f y i n g him as " t h e point of absolute textual origin."

25

Whether consciously or unconsciously. Van der Elsken exposes himself

completely, l e a v i n g v i e w e r s no other choice but to admire him (i.e. identify t h e m s e l v e s w i t h him) or to reject c o m p l e t e l y his n a r r a t i v e of s e l f - a b s o r p t i o n . Given such u n i n h i b i t e d e x h i b i t i o n i s m , it is not s u r p r i s i n g that the f i l m w a s so c o n t r o v e r s i a l when it w o n a Dutch film prize. One critic called it an " o u t r a g e o u s l y s e l f indulgent portrait of a photographer."

26

Van der Elsken's next film. Death in the Port Jackson Hotel (1972), returned him s y m b o l i c a l l y to the hallucinatory days of his Parisian youth. In Edam (Holland) and southern Italy, Van der Elsken f i l m e d a portrait of Vali Myers, who had m e t a morphosed herself into a hippie l i v i n g in a countrg commune with thirty dogs and a lover twenty years her junior. The f i l m opens w i t h a sequence in w h i c h Van der Elsken t a l k s about Love on the Left Bank and V a l i M y e r s , then cuts to an audio recording of V a l i t a l k i n g about the young people depicted in the book w h i l e we see images from the book. The sequence begins and ends w i t h Van der Elsken's famous photograph of M g e r s kissing herself in a mirror - an image of n a r c i s s i s m par excellence

- then cuts to Van der Elsken f i l m i n g himself and M y e r s in a mirror

set up outside on the photographer's farm. He asks her to talk about " a long time


ago," but she doesn't have much to say about the subject, s e e m i n g l y embarrassed that the question reveals her age. In the next two sequences Vali is s h o w n r i d i n g a horse and t a l k i n g about her drawings, one of which gives the f i l m its title, w h i l e Van der E l s k e n ' s camera l i t e r a l l y s c a n s the a r t w o r k . (She had in fact become a r e l a t i v e l y w e l l - k n o w n artist.) The second half of the f i l m is shot in an i s o l a t e d v a l l e y in Italy, where M y e r s lived w i t h her animals. Interestingly, Van der Elsken gives Mgers her own voice in the film, carrying on a dialogue w i t h her, a l l o w i n g her plenty of space to tell her own story. She relates her opium addiction and her "death trip," manifested in her lifestyle and her art, and talks of her love for the animals who returned her to life. As if to prove the point that communion with nature is life embracing. Van der Elsken films her fully clothed, fucking her boyfriend while leaning against a tree, just as later we see dogs copulating while Vali talks about being in heat. Van der Elsken returns o b s e s s i v e l y to an extreme close-up of V a l i ' s tattooed mouth, w h i c h gives her an a n i m a l - l i k e appearance. Yet, his goal is not to present her as a freak, as one might suspect, but rather to tell a story of redemption, the meaning of which would not escape Van der Elsken. After the b r e a k - u p of his marriage, he too w o u l d w i t h d r a w to his farm, which would provide him with the subject matter for his next personal film. In 1980 Van der Elsken produced Avonturen

op het land (Adventures in the

Countrg), a feature length personal documentary w h i c h he shot with a super 8mm camera, as well as a book of m a i n l y color photographs." It is a microcosmic look at the natural and social e n v i r o n m e n t to be seen and e x p e r i e n c e d w i t h i n a few mile's radius of Van der Elsken's farm in Edam. Ironically, the f i l m opens w i t h an almost two minute shot of Van der Elsken setting up his camera and a telephoto lens the size of a canon in order to f i l m the surface of the moon. The s y m b o l i s m of the phallus, used to v i s u a l l y penetrate the moon (a female sign), is obvious, and is accentuated by the sensualitg of the shot's l i g h t i n g . From the very b e g i n n i n g . Van der Elsken keeps up a running commentary on the images, often d e s c r i b i n g exactly what the v i e w e r is seeing. In a sense, then, this film too is a home movie in w h i c h the p h o t o g r a p h e r is the center of a t t e n t i o n . The o p e n i n g shots of the moon and setting sun - the telephoto abstracts the i m a g e s ' articulation of space announce the romantic u n d e r c u r r e n t s c l e a r l y v i s i b l e in the f i l m and in Van der Elsken's relationship to the material. The film proper begins with an aerial v i e w of the farm, surrounded by fields and water, then cuts to a long sequence at a local " r o d e o " w h e r e farmers drive their livestock through the streets. This sequence is e x t r e m e l y f a s t - p a c e d , due to Van der E l s k e n ' s p a n n i n g shots w h i c h f o l l o w the action, s i m i l a r to the w a y he shoots p e d e s t r i a n s in other f i l m s . Later sequences present the birth of v a r i o u s


a n i m a l s , the f a m i l y horse, birds in nests, bunnies and more birds, frogs and t a d p o l e s in the creek, w i n t e r l a n d s c a p e s , u n d e r - w a t e r scenes of m i c r o s c o p i c organisms and a tug-of-war at a local festival. Everything is fair game for Van der Elsken's i n q u i s i t i v e camera, and many shots are extremely beautiful, marked, as it were, by the photographer's l y r i c a l attitude t o w a r d s nature. As in his e a r l i e r f i l m s . Van der Elsken also s e e m s a b s o l u t e l y f a s c i n a t e d by b o d i l y functions, e s p e c i a l l y birth and s e x u a l i t y (we see various forms of a n i m a l life copulating), w h i c h also structures the f i l m ' s o v e r a l l narrative, moving as it does from spring through the seasons to w i n t e r and back to spring, birth and rebirth. Just as Welcome

to Life and The Infatuated

graphic scenes of human birth. Adventures

Camera

in the Country

featured e x t r e m e l y gazes almost o b s e s -

s i v e l g at a n i m a l births. Van der Elsken films in close-up the birth of a black lamb, a white lamb, a calf born by Caesarian section, freshlg hatched birds. A short film, Paardeleven

(Horse's Life), shot eight years earlier, features both copulation and

the b i r t h of a horse, as w e l l as the e r o t i c a l l y charged image of a naked w o m a n

ED V A N D E R E L S K E N F R O M T H E F I L M : FÂť Âť Âť 0E1E IE N [ H O R S E ' S L I F E ] 1 9 7 2

riding bareback. This continual return to the site of e x p u l s i o n from the womb, to the moment w h e n life first infuses a tiny body, seems to have e n d l e s s l y f a s c i n a t ed Van der Elsken. Birth is l i f e - a f f i r m i n g , but also a f r i g h t e n i n g r e a l i z a t i o n of s e x u a l d i f f e r e n c e . The image of the g a p i n g orifice of the v a g i n a s i g n i f i e s the terrible lack of female sexualitg (at one point the veterinarian literally has to reach into a e w e ' s uterus and p u l l out the fetus) and the fear of c a s t r a t i o n . Indeed, in another scene. V a n der Elsken presents the spectator w i t h c l o s e - u p s of a castration, as if to indicate that, as Freud noted, birth and the fear of castration are i n e v i t a b l y l i n k e d in the s y m b o l i c order. In retrospect, the castration scene takes on its o w n eerie, s y m b o l i c s i g n i f i c a n c e , g i v e n Van der E l s k e n ' s o w n verg real castration, as discussed in Bye. Een fotograaf

filmt Amsterdam

(A P h o t o g r a p h e r Films A m s t e r d a m , 1982)

returns to familiar Van der Elsken territory. The film consists basically of two parts w h i c h a l t e r n a t e throughout f i l m . In the first shot and in numerous

subsequent


scenes. Van der Elsken drives through Amsterdam at breakneck speed shortly after dawn to avoid traffic (replicating the o p e n i n g shot of Welcome

to Life], naming

streets and b u i l d i n g s as he goes. From one sequence to the next Van der Elsken covers, in ever w i d e r concentric circles, the w h o l e city and some of its suburbs, until in the final scene he f l i e s around the city in a s m a l l plane in order to v i s u alize geography and tgpography of the city. The second set of images returns us to the photographer as flaneur, strolling through various neighborhoods, gazing at life on the street. In keeping with Van der E l s k e n ' s by now f i r m l g e s t a b l i s h e d mode of o p e r a t i o n , his camera focuses most often on w e l l - e n d o w e d young w o m e n w h i l e he s o m e t i m e s comments on their appearance. Van der Elsken also has an eye for the exotic, the abnormal, the w e i r d , the fanciful and the c a r n i v a l e s q u e . As in p r e v i o u s f i l m s , the p e d e s t r i a n s usually become aware of the camera and that they are being f i l m e d w h i l e Van der Elsken is shooting. But the artist has fallen on hard times with his method; Van der Elsken has no other choice but to document that r e s i s t a n c e . Some people make faces, others shout at him or cover their faces, and at least five i n d i v i d u a l s make an obscene gesture w i t h their m i d d l e finger. U n l i k e the v o y e u r w h o w i s h e s to remain hidden, seeing without being seen, Van der Elsken is very honest about his predilection, so that he takes such resistance in stride, often cracking a joke from b e h i n d the camera. W o u l d ang one else in the p o s t - f e m i n i s t era have dared to make a f i l m in w h i c h male v o y e u r i s m is its raison

d'etre . 1

Ed v a n der Elsken began work on his last f i l m . Bye, in December, 1989, fourteen months after l e a r n i n g that he had t e r m i n a l prostate cancer, and f i n i s h e d it in June, 1990, six months before he d i e d . M u c h of the f i l m was shot by Van der 28

E l s k e n in a mirror, so that he could record his own thoughts and document the progress

of the d i s e a s e w h i c h w o u l d i n e v i t a b l y end his life. In terms of its

s u b j e c t i v i t y , it is one of the most b r u t a l l y honest f i l m s about d y i n g ever made, filled w i t h anger, resentment, sadness, pain, but also joy, hope, even humor. Shot with a video camera, the VPRO-financed film alternates between black & white and color scenes, the former shot w i t h an e x p e r i m e n t a l video camera that the P h i l i p s Compang had given Van der Elsken back in 1982.

29

The film opens with an eight minute b 6 w take of Van der Elsken reading a long statement in w h i c h he admits that this w i l l be his last f i l m because he has incurable prostate cancer, and that he had a l w a y s tried to make photographs and films about the things that grabbed him emotionally, fascinated him, including this last adventure. He then goes on to describe in almost clinical detail the activities of the doctors who have "castrated h i m " and bungled the job so that he nearly bled to death. He then talks about the course of the cancer, the period of remission and


the r e n e w e d g r o w t h of tumors six months after the o p e r a t i o n . Close to tears at s e v e r a l points, angry at the doctors and at fate. V a n der Elsken

nevertheless

m a n a g e s a s m i l e w h e n he takes leave of " t h e little g u y s in the m e t a l k i d n e y shaped d i s h " (his testicles). Having read his statement, he begins his narrative in the present tense by s w i t c h i n g to color film, noting that he can now begin i m p r o v i s i n g and reacting, as was his film style. Holding the camera himself for the first time, he tries to get out of his wheel chair and take a few steps w h i l e shooting into the mirror, a task he is a b l e to complete w i t h utmost d i f f i c u l t g . He c o m p l a i n s bitterly that everg photo-journalist in the w o r l d is now in Berlin (filming the W a l l coming down) or Rumania (it is December, 1990), but that he is tied to his w h e e l chair. There are no retakes, just lengthy video shots w i t h Van der Elsken p r o g r e s s i v e l y s h o w i n g the signs of his fatal i l l n e s s . Over the course of the next eighty minutes. Van der Elsken addresses the camera repeatedlg, describing various treatments, drugs and therapies he is being

E0 VAN

DER

E L S K E N FROM

THE F I L M : 111

1990

subjected to, as w e l l as his feelings, e s p e c i a l l y t o w a r d s his w i f e and child, and t o w a r d s death. It is a narrative of intense, c o n t i n u o u s p a i n - he

considers

e u t h a n a s i a at one point - p h y s i c a l and e m o t i o n a l s e t - b a c k s , moments of relief when a new drug manages to remove the pain at least t e m p o r a r i l y , and a kind of pride that he is s t i l l able to work and produce images through a l l of it. He talks about various photo projects, books and exhibitions, and interviews Ata Kando (his first wife) and another Hungarian photographer who have come to visit him. Halfway through the film. Van der Elsken inserts an " i n t e r m i s s i o n , " a f i v e - m i n u t e film. Fietsers (Bicgclists, 1965), he originally shot for VPRO, featuring lyrical scenes shot w i t h an extreme telephoto lens of Amsterdam's bicycle culture, w i t h V i v a l d i on the soundtrack. At another point, he shoots footage of nature a v a i l a b l e outside his bedroom w i n d o w , reminding the v i e w e r of his earlier film. Adventures

in the

Country. In the final shot. Van der Elsken sags good-bye: "Do gour best. Show the w o r l d w h o you are. Bye."

The f i l m closes w i t h another m u s i c a l i n t e r l u d e : a

montage of photos from Once Upon a Time, and a Jacques Brel chanson.


If n a r c i s s i s m and v o y e u r i s m w e r e the d r i v i n g forces b e h i n d much of V a n der Elsken's earlier f i l m and photographic work, creating an i l l u s o r y image of w h o l e ness t h r o u g h p r i m a r y n a r c i s s i s t i c i d e n t i f i c a t i o n , then in Bye we w i t n e s s the documentation of a radical separation from the self, w h e r e b y the subject can only face death by objectifying himself, d e s c r i b i n g his castrated body as if it belonged to another. At one point he takes off his shirt and s h o w s us his pelvic area, where a g r a p h has been d r a w n d i r e c t l y on his s k i n in order to guide the doctors a d m i n i s t e r i n g the radiation treatment. Holding his penis, he notes that the doctors have warned him to keep it out of the way of the radiation. At another point he lays out all his x - r a y and bone scans on a light-table so that his tumors can be v i e w e d in f r i g h t e n i n g detail. In order to come to terms with his lack, he puts on a cap on w h i c h is written " t h e b o s s " and from w h i c h a giant p h a l l u s - l i k e cigar protrudes. Van der Elsken k n o w i n g l y plays w i t h such fetishistic signifiers, thereby creating another moment of humor which also distances the subject. Indeed, the f i l m ' s extreme formal structure, c o n s i s t i n g almost e x c l u s i v e l y of s i n g l e , long t a k e s in w h i c h the f i l m m a k e r d i r e c t l y a d d r e s s e s the a u d i e n c e , w o r k s to keep the v i e w e r from i d e n t i f y i n g w i t h the subject. As a result. Van der Elsken blocks any emotions of pity that might have been conjured up, g i v e n the e m o t i o n a l p o w e r of the n a r r a t i v e , had another f i l m m a k e r been at work. On the other hand. Van der Elsken makes a bid for i m m o r t a l i t g in this final e x h i b i t i o n i s tic e x t r a v a g a n z a . He states that he has to f i n i s h the film, because there is another book project that a w a i t s completion. He even jokes about m a k i n g another feature length f i l m from b e y o n d the grave, because so m a n y people are i n t e r e s t e d in k n o w i n g what it is like. He adds that he w i l l again play the central role. Van der Elsken k n o w s these images w i l l outlive his p h y s i c a l existence, w i l l in fact give him a form of i m m o r t a l i t y . M e t a p h o r i c a l l y , the camera has power over death. To the very end, then, Ed van der Elsken remained true to his l i b i d i n a l drives. Certainly his almost exclusive focus on his own s u b j e c t i v i t y made him an object of interest, e s p e c i a l l y for those v i e w e r s interested in the more p e r s o n a l cinema of the avant-garde. Indeed, Van der Elsken's f i l m work must be seen in the t r a d i t i o n of such o v e r t l y a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l f i l m m a k e r s as Jonas M e k a s , Carolee Schneemann, A n d r e w Norton, Tom Chomont and Robert Huot. Ed van der Elsken's films may be the most flagrantly s e l f - r e v e l a t o r y of the group, e x h i b i t i n g both at a conscious and sub-conscious level positive and negative aspects of his personality and p e r s o n a l life. W h e t h e r his f i l m s w i l l f i n d a new a u d i e n c e , p o s t h u m o u s l y , remains to be seen.


NOTES 1. See "Ed en Gerda van der Elsken op hun reis door de wereld", in: Katholieke Illustratie. No. 10 lOctober I960), p. 4-6. Quoted in Evelyn de Regt. "Once Upon a Time: een biografie", in: Ed van der Elsken, Once Upon a Time (Amsterdam: Fragment Uitgeverij, 19911, p. 23. Thanks to Mrs. Anneke van der Elsken tor making an English translation of this text, by Karen Gamester, available to me. 2. Ed van der Elsken, Sweet life (New York: Harry Abrams Inc., 1966), n.p. (photo caption for photos on p. 162,163). 3. See e.g. Peter Cowie, Dutch Cinema. An Illustrated History (London: Tantivy Press, 1979|. Directory ol Contemporary Dutch Films and Film-Makers, compiled by Matthew Stevens (London: Flick Books, 1990). p. 87.. lists one film by van der Elsken. however, without any description. 4. "The End", in: Skoop. Vol. 27, No. 2 (February 1991). p. 5. 5. See Peter van Bueren, "Holland spreekt een woordje mee", in: Skoop. Vol. 7. No. 8 (August 19711, p. 25-26. The author of the article would have liked to have seen Johan van der Keuken win the prize and is incensed over the jury selection procedure. Van Bueren calls Van der Elsken the "laughing third party" who won. only because the "heterogeneous jury" supposedly couldn't decide between Jan Vrijman and Frans Zwartjes. He also quotes a jury member. Charles Boost, who characterized the choice of De verliefde camera as a scandal. 6. Most of the biographical information in this and the following paragraphs is indebted to Evelyn de Regt's biography in Once Upon a Time. See de Regt. 1991. p. 45. 7. This chapter would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the Nederlands Filmmuseum and the Rijksvoorlichtingdienst. Amsterdam, which made video copies of van der Elskens films available to me. At least two important films in the van der Elsken canon were not available for the purposes of this chapter: Mr. Fd en de sprekende Him {Mr. Ed and the Talking Film, 19801 and Welkom in het leven, lieve kleine /bis/ (Welcome to Life, Dear Little One, Part II. 1982), the latter a portrait of his two children, now young adults. 8. De Regt. 1991. p. 45. 9. The footage is part of a larger collection of films, held by the Nederlands Filmmuseum. Amsterdam. No other completed films of individual segments of Around the World seem to have survived. 10. De Regt. 1991. p. 23. 11. Van der Elsken. 1966. pp. 18-19. 12. De Regt. 1991. p. 24. 13. Ibid. p. 14. 14. Ibid. p. 27. Johan van der Keuken, among others, assisted on the film. 15. Vrijman's film went on to win a "Golden Bear" at the Berlin Film Festival in 1962. See Cowie. 1979. p. 149. Van Elsken was credited as stills photographer on the film. 16. Van der Elsken's photographs of Spoerri's room and Niki de St. Phalle's dinosauer sculpture are reprinted in Once upon a Time, p. 68-69. 17. The film is archived in the Nederlands Filmmuseum. 18. Financed by VPRO. the film was broadcast on 15 January 1964. 19. De Regt. 1991. pp. 13-15. 21. 20. See Jacques Lacan. Ecrits: A Selection, trans, by Alan Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton Co.. Inc.. 1978). pp. 1-7. 21. Jacques Lacan. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. By Jacques-Alain Miller, trans, by Alan Sheridan |New York: W. W. Norton, 19811, p. 257. 22. Ibid. p. 194. 23. The unedited footage was deposited in the Nederlands Filmmuseum and has been transferred to video. It consists of roughly an hour and a half of footage. 24. Initially. VPR0 had asked a journalist to make a television portrait of the photographer, but Van der Elsken was uncooperative, insisting that he make the film himself. See De Regt. 1991, p. 29. 25. Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror. The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Bloomington. IN.: Indiana University Press. 1988). p. 213. 26. Ed van der Elsken. Sweet Life (New York: Harry Abrams Inc.. 19661. n.p. Iphoto caption for photos on p. 162.163). 27. Ed van der Elsken, Avonturen op het /anoMBussum: Van Holkema 6 Warendorf, 1980). 28. De Regt. 1991. p. 41. 29. Ibid., p. 38.


LU


J O H A N

ED

V

A

VAN

N

D E R

DER

BETWEEN

K E U K E N

ELSKEN PHOTO

AND

FILM

I WA5 JUST 17 THE FIRST TIME I SAW Ed v a n d e r E l s k e n ' s w o r k , f r o m h i s P a r i s p e r i o d . It m a d e a n e n o r m o u s

photos

i m p r e s s i o n on m e , not

just b e c a u s e I t h o u g h t t h e p h o t o s w e r e b e a u t i f u l , b u t a l s o

because

of t h e c o m b i n a t i o n w i t h t h o s e d e f i a n t t e x t s o f h i s . In c o m p a r i s o n w i t h w h a t w a s t h e n , i n 1955, g o i n g o n i n D u t c h p h o t o g r a p h y , it h a d a totally different tone. He had a w a y of w r i t i n g that w a s utterly his o w n . Up to that time, the usual commentarg went something like this: these are beautiful photographs and I made them thus and so. W i t h Ed it w a s : t h i s is h o w I see t h i n g s , h o w I live, a n d the photos go with that; they are the reflection of the stand I've taken in life. I already k n e w an awful lot of photography, because I looked at a l l those t h i n g s a v i d l y . For instance, w h a t the A m e r i c a n s were d o i n g in those d a y s w i t h available light appealed to me a lot: grainy, grab shots; journalistic work at sports and music events. What made Ed's photos so s p e c i a l w a s that he used a v a i l a b l e light for a certain r o m a n t i c atmosphere. It gave me the f e e l i n g that I w a s much closer to life. It represented a generation w h o wanted to do things differently and show up the hardness and austerity, but do so out of a romantic attitude. In the lethargic Dutch photo w o r l d , that w a s something completely new. I'd been photographing since mg 12th birthday. At the Montessori g r a m m a r school, where I w a s a student, and the Barlaeus g r a m m a r school, we had a group of boys and girls w h o were also rebels, and artistically strongly oriented to what w a s going on in P a r i s ; they w r o t e poems and music, p a i n t e d , acted. I p r o f i l e d myself as the photographer for this group. One day we heard that the stepfather of Thomas Kando, one of the boys in our little group, w a s going to come to the s c h o o l for a look a r o u n d a n d to offer tips, so if a n y o n e w a n t e d to bring their photos, theg should. That w a s Ed van der Elsken. W h e n he s a w my work he s a i d , " Y o u ' v e got to keep w o r k i n g at photographg - you've got more talent than 9 9 % of the professionals. Y o u ought to make a book." For some years I'd w a n t e d to become a photographer, but that w a s n ' t the


obvious thing for a grammar school bog to do. Also, I didn't get much support for the idea at home. As far as my parents were concerned, a photographer was s o m e body who ran a photo shop, and that was s o m e t h i n g they looked down on. It was more their intention that I would study Dutch and English in order to continue my father's lifework; he'd written a whole pile of school textbooks. And s u d d e n l y this remarkable man came along, and I thought, ' Y o u see, now...' Later I told somebody he was the one who gave me p e r m i s s i o n to go through w i t h photography. That's what it came down to. A kind of breakthrough. At that time I was already deeply i n v o l v e d w i t h what later became Wij zijn /7(We are 17). The i d e a of " b e i n g 17" was s o m e w h a t elastic, because it i n c l u d e d my sister, who at that moment was a l r e a d y 19 and pregnant, and it also included

5

a couple of 1 4 - y e a r - o l d s , but of course that doesn't matter. After the first meeting, I'd go a r o u n d w i t h a couple of f r i e n d s to T h o m a s ' s every so often - for m y s e l f , a l w a y s in the hope of meeting Ed a g a i n . He a l w a g s r e c e i v e d me i m m e n s e l g w a r m l y . And he invited me along to a l l kinds of things - the night concerts at the Concertgebouw, for instance, w h e r e the great jazz m u s i c i a n s were performing, or a party at the country estate Jachtlust, where the poetess Fritzi Harmsen ten Beek lived. She was married to Remco Campert at the time, and it w a s w i t h him that I did my second book, Achter Glas (Behind glass) in 1956. Ed f u n c t i o n e d as a sort of s p a r k p l u g : he got goung people g o i n g , on their w a y . He w a s very generous in doing this. He did the same for Koen W e s s i n g and W i m van der Linden. He had a very pronounced v i e w about what he found b e a u tiful. In fact, he a l w a y s opted for the emotional impact. M y s e l f , I a l w a y s look for it in the tension between formal composition and emotion. Sometimes, in my case, form can rather get the upper hand, w h i l e according to Ed, form is nothing unless emotion is the main thing.


I recall there was one photo of mine that he found a bit too prim. " G h a s t l y ! " was his assessment. Nonetheless, I kept it in. Things I was verg proud of, he thought nothing of, and things I was dubious about, chieflg because theg were emotional subjects, he thought were precisely what I should be g i v i n g pride of place. Often quite surprising. In those cases, I went along with his opinion. I also observed very carefully how he w o r k e d , where he p o s i t i o n e d h i m s e l f w h e n he p h o t o g r a p h e d . That's c r u c i a l w h e n you work w i t h a c a m e r a ; like chess, it's u l t i m a t e l y a game where position counts. Another thing that I learned from him is that in fact you need very little light on the n e g a t i v e . There are no rules for w h a t is a good image. I n t u i t i v e l y , I'd already had my doubts about such rules, but his work showed me that even if you

had just a lot of grain w i t h a couple of spots, you already had a picture. Thus you in fact have an enormous range from underexposure to overexposure, in which he was happy to work the lower end of the scale, and could still do something w i t h it. In the Saint-Germain-des-PrĂŠs book there are, for instance, two pages with four photos that are really nothing but movement and blurr, and get, to mg mind, they are among the most successful things. In the m e a n t i m e mg father got the i d e a that perhaps there w a s

some

promise in what his son was up to. He took me to meet his publisher, who s a i d , "Let's give it a try." I made a few more photos to f i n i s h it off, and Wij zijn 77came out very soon thereafter. I could h a r d l y b e l i e v e the impact it had. A p p a r e n t l y it was an i m a g e of gouth that rather shocked people in the 1950s, the period of r e c o n s t r u c t i o n after the war: a certain i n t r o v e r s i o n and g l o o m i n e s s ,

hanging

around s m o k i n g pipes and d r i n k i n g w i n e . Because of that book, I was able to get a grant to study f i l m and w e n t to Paris, to the f i l m a c a d e m y , the IDHEC. There


weren't scholarships of that kind for photography yet, and then I thought, cinema also seems to suit me, it's really a l l a bit the same. W h e n I met Ed he'd already been w o r k i n g on Love on the Left Bank for some years. W h e n my first book came out w i t h i n s i x months, it was obvious even to me that that was a bit hard for him to s w a l l o w . It was also strange: he had encouraged me, gotten me on mg w a g , and through c i r c u m s t a n c e s outside my c o n t r o l , suddenly there was this little book. In the meantime, for him it was an enormous struggle to get his book into a particular shape. That was a very long process, that I watched intently, how he did it together w i t h designer Jurriaan Schrofer. To my mind, they were a tremendous team, they w o r k e d w o n d e r f u l l y w e l l together. But I also saw how in just a w e e k or two, in a tiny little hole there on the Achtergracht, he had to make prints for a w h o l e new version of the book. I noted how, when I came bring around a copg of my little book, he w a s so p r e o c c u p i e d he couldn't carry on a c o n v e r s a t i o n . You could say that was the first time that I saw him as a man w i t h w e a k n e s s e s , w i t h v u l n e r a b i l i t i e s . I thought, of course for him this is t e r r i b l y difficult, so I left it w i t h him and d i d n ' t say much. N a t u r a l l y , at that time our f r i e n d s h i p was an unequal affair: I w a s the p u p i l , picked up p o i n t e r s , and s o a k e d up e x p e r i e n c e s . I w a s f a s c i n a t e d by how he did t h i n g s and how he l i v e d . I m y s e l f came from a verg bourgeois background, w h i l e he l i v e d intensely on very s l i m finances. Very hip, w i t h a motorcycle and g i r l f r i e n d s to boot. There was an excitement about it, this w o n d e r f u l man w i t h a coat like that, w i t h a s m a l l l e a t h e r belt a r o u n d it that apparently had come off a suitcase or something of that sort. In 1958, after my return from Paris, our friendship became more equal. In the early 1960s Ed got a l l fired up bg the earliest cinéma

vérité. immediate image and

sound recorded at the same time w i t h more portable equipment. These were a l l new techniques that were developed by a number of people in France, Canada and America, Jean Rouch, Pierre Brault, Richard Leacock, enfin, a number of others. He had been to the f e s t i v a l at Oberhausen and what he had seen there grabbed him. He wanted to do it too. He had built a cutting machine w i t h a v i e w e r and reels, at w h i c h I sat to edit one of mg very first short films. Even Stilte (Silence, please). Ed had been one of the people w h o were a m o n g the first to see that the photo book w a s a separate form, a separate s t y l e , almost a separate m e d i u m , a c o m b i n a t i o n of i n f o r m a t i o n that he himself could cast into images and words. He was one of the inventors of the photo book as a sort of picture story. I think that that was the path he had to go, the l o g i c a l p r o g r e s s i o n that runs from the photo book to f i l m . That w a y ran v i a t e l e v i s i o n , a new m e d i u m that w a s q u i c k e r and more direct than photography and that made the t i m e - c o n s u m i n g production of


picture stories for print e c o n o m i c a l l y u n r e w a r d i n g . Thus, in those d a y s for the f i l m i n g photographers, f i l m was c h i e f l y tied w i t h t e l e v i s i o n , w i t h a t r a d i t i o n of reportage - however freely that might be interpreted - in the background. That was a bit different for me. I had been to f i l m school for two gears, and had gotten some insight into the historg of cinema. Although the new things that were coming out in that P a r i s i a n period - the first Nouvelle

Vague films, Rouch's

vĂŠritĂŠ work - had often excited me so much I couldn't sleep, I also had to face the question of how I could free myself from that history, and still stay in touch w i t h it. As it were, there were too many forms in my head, and I had to be able to make room for them. That's something that w o u l d take some gears to sort out. For me, Ed's book Bagara

was the absolute p i n n a c l e : the v e r y precise

structure, the w a y it was printed, the layout. What he did there w i t h flash p h o t o graphy... You can look at C a r t i e r - B r e s s o n the w a y you look at M a t i s s e , but gou don't go out on the corner and paint s o m e t h i n g like that. Ed came very close to that. He a l w a g s wanted to testify to what he was going through himself. He made himself into a character w h o ' s in those books and those f i l m s ; he summoned up a certain Ed, the way he w a n t e d you to see him. He showed what he thought was important about his own character. He made, as it were, a fiction of himself, but as thin as possible, as if everything was a l w a y s absolutely up front, and thus that fiction w a s n ' t really there. That's also where the criticism I have of his f i l m s comes from: that he didn't give this fiction, which was certainly very much there, a place in the shape of his films. I also think directness must be created through a c k n o w l e d g i n g the fiction. You can record something very directly, but then there has got to be a phase of reflection, shifting your weight to the other leg, looking at it from a different angle, letting things condense, and give them shape when they are in another, more c o n centrated form than that of life itself. Only then can you retrieve this directness again in your film. Thus perhaps directness is itself a misconception. M y reservations, however, don't apply to Welkom in het leven, lieve

kleine

(Welcome to Life, Dear Little One). That was a f i l m in which he certainly had opted for a structure, with a passage of time and indications of it's passing, with episodes in w h i c h nothing happens, but in the meantime he goes to do this and do that, he goes and soups up his m i n i - c a r - I have strong memories of that. And w h y does that work, then? Because that car is a metaphor, I think, for the unrestricted youth, the f a s t - l i v i n g youth, but who of course is also w a i t i n g for the baby. I find that gives it something moving. I mention that car, because introducing a metaphor of course a l w a y s involves introducing indirection. I was very touched by it, and I was also a bit jealous, that he was able to come so close to his experiences in that way.


Actually, there is also a directness of another order, that I value quite h i g h l y . You see that when a maker just gets down to business, for instance w h e n Ed did the camera work for my f i l m Beppie, and he, during the Christmas celebration at the S a l v a t i o n A r m y , set up a big s p o t l i g h t in front of the stage. Beppie w a s s i t t i n g there in the middle of the audience, and the light picked him out. " P e o p l e are going to object," I thought, but that d i d n ' t h a p p e n ; that light w a s i m m e d i a t e l y also accepted as a part of the g o i n g s - o n . He k n e w that he had to go and stand at the end of the row w i t h the camera and in two minutes e v e r g b o d y w i l l be a c t i n g as

1 0 H A N V A N DER K E U K E N

F R O M THE F I L M :

B I P P I ! 1965 [ C A M E R A

ED V A N D E R E I S K E N ]

though nothing is out of the ordinary, and that w i l l work absolutely fantastic. And then you see that it becomes a classic sequence, almost carries the w h o l e film. Half of the f i l m is built a r o u n d it. I w o u l d almost say, that is the w a y it had to be. Perhaps I f i n d t h i s even more i m p o r t a n t than putting f o r w a r d gour o p i n i o n or s a y i n g "I'm h a p p y , " or "I'm u n h a p p y , " as Ed often did in his f i l m s , this k n o w i n g at any moment w h e r e you have to stand p h y s i c a l l y , and then you can also see figuratively, where do I really stand? I have the impression that in these things he w a s able to m o b i l i z e h i m s e l f very p o w e r f u l l y . That m o b i l i z a t i o n of e n e r g y

-

energy is such a vague word - in ang case: that power w i t h w h i c h he committed h i m s e l f to being open to w h a t e v e r h a p p e n e d , through w h i c h it became a l m o s t s e l f - e v i d e n t that you made a shot, that mental a v a i l a b i l i t y at a specific moment like that -that was very peculiar to him. Ed had fewer problems with directness and fiction in his photography. There I think his unfiltered e x p r e s s i o n s w o r k e d better, because angthing that is printed on paper is in itself already indirect. Thus there was a counterbalance that gave his photos an e x t r a power. H a p p i l y , in his later life he got the chance to f u l l y create this p h o t o g r a p h y . In the long run, I r e a l i z e d that mg path w a s different. W h e n I began to get more i n v o l v e d in p o l i t i c s , Ed listened to me t o l e r a n t l y , but that was a l l . He had the feeling - and in hindsight I think r i g h t l y so - that there was an awful lot of make believe going on there. For me, Chinese basic democracy was a l i v i n g thing; but he didn't believe in it. If the slightest obstacle were placed


in the w a y of the development of the i n d i v i d u a l anywhere, for him that was just plain w r o n g . He found it very clever how I argued my way out of it, but he didn't believe a word of it. Looking back, Ed has been v e r y i m p o r t a n t in my life. That

enormous

e n t h u s i a s m , that passion for life that he m a i n t a i n e d right up to his death, that's been something very s p e c i a l , and ultimately that is also the keg to evergthing he has done. There was a certain tumultuousness in him. You can see how even in the f i n a l period of his life, w i t h Bye, he was c o n s t a n t l y o c c u p i e d by getting that passion for life into images in any w a g he could and speaking his mind on what did or didn't please h i m . There's a difference between life and f i l m . When I look at Bye and think of the period that came s t i l l after it, then I found him in that time even more impressive, really, than in the film. He then had this enormous dignitg, and it certainly seemed as if he could not be open about his own great class in his own f i l m . In it he lets us see that he is occupied w i t h his death, how t e r r i b l e he finds it, and at the same time how he wants to keep a hold on his own s u r r o u n dings. He orders around his w i f e , who has become i n d i s p e n s a b l e in getting the f i l m c o m p l e t e d because he h i m s e l f has become too w e a k . The d e p i c t i o n of this imperious side says something about Ed's character, but somewhat detracts from the struggle he was e n g a g e d in. As a v i e w e r , you are too p r e o c c u p i e d w i t h the question, 'Do I like this guy or not?' On the other hand, there is a scene in Bye in w h i c h he tells us how badly he's taking it, and then has to cry. That is an incredible scene, because he really feels that he is defenseless at that moment, even against his own camera, that he just really has nowhere left to turn. And then you think, oh, cut that crap. At that moment, it really all falls together, then you are really d e a l i n g w i t h someone who is no longer the boss of his own film, and you are suddenly right there on top of the real theme: having to let go. During his last months I found him tremendously open; to mg mind, things went easier for him. At the end, there was neither s e l f - a g g r a n d i z e m e n t nor s e l f depreciation. He didn't have to pump himself up, or tear himself d o w n . 5omeone, I don't remember who any more, wrote, "He left this w o r l d like a k i n g . " That's how I felt it was for him.

(JOHAN VAN DER KEUKEN w a s i n t e r v i e w e d by A n n e k e v a n d e r E l s k e n and H a n H o g e l a n d in e a r l y 1996. T h i s is a v e r s i o n of the n o t e s of t h a t i n t e r v i e w as e d i t e d by V a n d e r K e u k e n h i m s e l f . )


R O E L

THE

B E N T Z

V

A

N

O E N

I N V I S I B L E

B E R G

FIST

THE SCENE OF THE ACTION i s r e m i n i s c e n t o f a b e d r o o m

i n t h e s o r t of

doleful h o l i d a y cottage in the Veluwe w h e r e I once s t a y e d w i t h a friend from school a n d his parents: a renovated chicken coop w i t h eardrum-thin walls, jalousie windows

whose

h o r i z o n t a l s t r i p s of

f r o s t e d g l a s s l e n t a s i c k l y q u a l i t y to t h e i n c o m i n g l i g h t , a n d a f l a t roof t h a t , w h e n the s u n beat d o w n on it, gave off a p e n e t r a t i n g s c e n t of t a r . On the double bed with its striped sheets, a naked woman kneels forward, her head buried in a p i l l o w . Behind her, w i t h his hands on her hips c l a m p i n g her u p - r a i s e d buttocks against his abdomen, is a man, also naked and on his knees, who, it w o u l d seem, has t a k e n a t r e m e n d o u s s m a s h under his chin from an i n v i s i b l e fist only a fraction of a second before the shutter was released: his head is thrown so far back that it now appears to be attached to his body back to front and upside d o w n . Like some parody of a Picasso, through the force of the b l o w everything on that head seems to have changed places: an ear has become an eye, the forehead a chin, the beard a head of hair. W h e n I s h o w e d this photograph (which I had encountered in a book l y i n g around my p a r e n t s ' house) to that same f r i e n d from the a f o r e m e n t i o n e d h o l i d a y


cottage in the V e l u w e , and pointed out to h i m the k n o c k e d apart and c a r e l e s s l y r e a s s e m b l e d features of the m a n ' s head, as if it were a c l e v e r s p e c i a l effect in come movie, he s n e e r e d , " A r e you thick or what, man? He's coming/Ike

two of

them are f u c k i n g ! Can't you see that?" No, o b v i o u s l y I couldn't. I did know a bit about what f u c k i n g w a s , but not that it could be done that way too. It was only a couple of years later that I was able to verify that, from a Dutch edition of Dr. Eustace Chesser's book Love Fear\ha\

without

my parents had bought at mg request. Until the moment that my friend

brought me back down to earth, I had seen the man and w o m a n in the photograph as l i v i n g m a t e r i a l for an abstract artwork created by the photographer, a human sculpture, a study in nudity. Yet, traces of that dream s t i l l linger on. S o m e t h i n g of that innocence born out of holy fear for the great and sometimes v i o l e n t u n k n o w n that can manifest itself in sex has stuck with me, and that I owe partly to Ed van der Elsken, as he w a s the one w h o made this p h o t o g r a p h of - as I later l e a r n e d - a couple he befriended in Surinam. That picture can n o w be seen in the book of erotic p h o t o g r a p h s e n t i t l e d L'Amour!put

together from the estate of Ed van der E l s k e n by Anthon Beeke in

cooperation w i t h Anneke van der E l s k e n - H i l h o r s t , w h i c h appeared recently. The e x c l a m a t i o n mark in the title c o u l d have f o l l o w e d n e a r l g e v e r y t h i n g done by Ed van der Elsken, who indeed tramped through the rain of life s i n g i n g l o u d l y : his photobooks bearing titles like Jazz (1959), Sweet Life (1966), Eye Love Kou (1977), Hallof [Wi). Amsterdam!(1979)

and Pari/sl(1981). and certainly also the film about

the final gear of his life. Bye (1990). F o l l o w i n g the French word for ' l o v e ' , this Van der Elskenian e x c l a m a t i o n mark suggests, first of a l l , something like " o h la l a " or " d e e - v i n e , " and at the same time something imperative, as in a command: " L o v e ! " (and, as Raymond van het Groenewoud sang in " J e veux de I'amour," " n o t p r e s ently, not soon, not in a w h i l e , but i m m e d i a t e l y , tout de suite, heute, damn it!") But perhaps ever more than that, the e x c l a m a t i o n mark after

L'Amour!

s i g n i f i e s the triumphant "Caught!", the " G o t c h a ! " of the click of the shutter of his camera. In his introduction to L'Amour!, Anthon Beeke quite rightly characterizes Van der Elsken's w o r k as " r a p a c i o u s photography, greedy for the moments of life that you want to hold on to, for the moments of the lives of others that you want to add to your own life." Now, all real photographers are greedy to the point of being predatory. They a v i d l y collect what otherwise w o u l d be lost forever: moments of beauty, terror or shame. Or rather, they create these moments by every once in a w h i l e p r e s e r v i n g one of the countless images that in reality slide over each other in a continuous


stream to be instantly replaced by others. Driven by an insatiable hunger for more, and propelled onwards by a vision of the ultimate photograph that is sharpened by each new photo, theg actively seek out these moments, their only fear being that they might blink or be rubbing the sleep from their eyes at the very moment that this ultimate photograph that they have spent their whole life pursuing presents itself: the moment of moments, the face of God, in one of those extremely rare moments when He suddenly and quite by accident looks into the mirror of His creation. Ed van der Elsken loved l o o k i n g into m i r r o r s , and used them often in his w o r k . Right off, in the v e r y first two p h o t o g r a p h s in L'Amour! we see Van der Elsken taking a picture of himself with one of his wives in a mirror. In one instance

(the p h o t o g r a p h decorating the title page as a k i n d of motto) his left hand is holding a camera and his right - as if it were holding the shutter release - a bare breast. In another case it is his own breast which is bare, and the w o m a n next to him (a different one from the previous photograph) holds up a pan and dish towel, an e x t r e m e l y despondent look upon her face. You can see her t h i n k i n g , "Just for once, Ed, w i l l you stop this prancing about and let me f i n i s h w a s h i n g up without interruptions. I'm sick and tired of i t . " His most beautiful m i r r o r photograph, also to be found in L'Amour!, is the famous picture he took of his regular model from the Paris years (1949-54), the at that time heavily o p i u m - a d d i c t e d Vali M y e r s , who like a v a m p i r e never let d a y light into her hotel room on the Rue des Canettes for three gears. We see a beauty scarred by life, w i t h hair like ruffled feathers, just about to plant a k i s s on the mouth of her i d e n t i c a l t w i n sister, w h o s e head has just come d r i f t i n g up to the surface of the mirror in w h i c h she has drowned only a short time before. V a l i ' s life has already gone up in smoke to such an extent that it doesn't matter ang more


w h i c h of the two is more real, she or her mirror image. The moment her lips touch the glass, they w i l l probably both d i s s o l v e into nothingness. V a l i M y e r s was one of " E l s k e n ' s A n g e l s , " as he h i m s e l f c a l l e d them, the sizeable throng of dropouts, freaks and beautiful losers restlessly shuttling back and forth between heaven and h e l l , every so often c r a s h i n g back d o w n to earth w i t h broken w i n g s , who in the shape of l o o n i e s , boozers and drifters, p i m p s , punks, prostitutes and poets, dancers and d o o m e d l o v e r s d e t e r m i n e the s t r e e t -

scape to such a great extent in the early photographs of Van der Elsken the " s i d e w a l k artist". They make up the black sheep of The Family of Man he felt such s y m pathy for because theg, purified by their life on the margins, were so muchmore " r e a l " than all those " s l i m e b a l l s and colourless conformist d i c k - h e a d s " who were scared to death of what might poke up its head in the wake of liberation in the way of peaks and v a l l e y s in the e x p e r i e n c e of l i f e . It w a s as if for Van der E l s k e n " a u t h e n t i c i t y " was a sort of sediment w h i c h could be found in higher q u a l i t y and increasing purity to the degree that you got closer to the bottom, or, better, closer to the fringe of society, there where the seams were somewhat looser and the bare s k i n of the human a n i m a l might show through. It is a romantic idea, this t h i n g about s t r e e t - a n g e l s , an idea that made its w a g into rock culture v i a the Beat Generation and r o c k - p o e t s such as Bob Dglan and Lou Reed, and an idea w h i c h can make me feel nostalgic in the very same w a y


that the photos Ed van der Elsken made of Amsterdam can, because of everything which has disappeared, and evergthing w h i c h has come in its place. I am not only referring to old and new, houses and BMW's, beautiful and uglg, but to more e s s e n tial things like great expectations and disillusionment, freedom and " d r o p dead." Yet, in part thanks to the photographs, " t h e n " continues to exist in the city, as sound, as scent and contour, and sometimes, as if you suddenly acquired x - r a y eyes, it s h o w s itself in its full g l o r y , s t r a i g h t through a l l the l a g e r s of i m a g e s w h i c h have been s u b s e q u e n t l y s u p e r i m p o s e d on it. Like on a quiet S u n d a y morning in the V o n d e l Park, for instance, or an autumn afternoon on the Doelen Bridge, or, if you look through h a l f - c l o s e d eges and in black and white, during a fun fair in the rain. But the light must be just right and what certainly a l w a y s helps

is a M i l e s Davis trumpet solo that sounds like midnight, an asphalt jungle theme bg M o n k on the piano or an horny saxophone lick by Rollins: in short,

JazzlUke

the title of still another Van der Elsken book, filled w i t h photographs of A m e r i c a n jazz angels taken w i t h light filtered by cigarette smoke during the famous night concerts at the Concertgebouw, who w e r e so m a r v e l l o u s l y d e s c r i b e d by Jan


V r i j m a n in his i n t r o d u c t i o n to the book as " c a s t a w a y s f l o a t i n g through Europe searching for the coasts of ecstasy, i d o l i z e d and wretched, poètes maudits

in the

naked d a w n of the atomic age." Jazz of the smokey, n e o n - l i g h t - r e f l e c t e d - o n - w e t - a s p h a l t kind is, as Anthon Beeke remarks in his introduction to L'Amour!, also the hidden soundtrack a c c o m panying what in all probability w i l l remain Van der Elsken's most renowned work. Love on the Left Bank (1956), a noir novel in i m a g e s about d o o m e d love in the international m i l i e u of Paris's bohème at the beginning of the 1950s. At the time it caused something of a stir in postwar Dutch living rooms because of the existential d e s p a i r and n i h i l i s t i c l i c e n t i o u s n e s s of the l i f e - s t y l e that c h a r a c t e r i z e d these " s i n n e r s in blue jeans." To my mind, the work that Ed van der Elsken made on the " f r i n g e s " of life his a n t h r a c i t e - d r e n c h e d photographic d e c l a r a t i o n s of love for the i n t e r n a t i o n a l a r m g of a n g e l s of the street and of the night - is his most v i t a l and poetic and poignant. H o w e v e r , as time w e n t bg the street scene also lost ever more of its c h a r m i n g q u a l i t i e s : the " b a s t a r d s " became i n c r e a s i n g l g less " a d o r a b l e , " so that in the end Van der E l s k e n had to s h a k e h i m s e l f e n t i r e l y free of those " b i g city b l u e s " w h i c h had been his home for so long. Luckily, for this " p r e s s

spokesman

for l i f e , " as he once described himself, there was still enough of the w o r l d left to s t i l l the r a v e n o u s

hunger of his c a m e r a : A f r i c a ! A s i a ! Nature! Edam! - a l l

documented in books full of postcards, a m u l t i - v o l u m e anthology of humanity. And of course, magbe above a l l - love! L'Amour! There are superb photographs in the book of that title, w h i c h in rough lines and with various interruptions trace the course of l o v e m a k i n g : meeting, dancing, k i s s i n g , mating, pregnancy, ending w i t h what for many classic v i s u a l artists has a l w a y s r e m a i n e d the apex of beauty, the c h i l d s u c k i n g at its m o t h e r ' s breast. A s m a l l g a l l e r y of my f a v o u r i t e s : a w o m a n caught as if f r o z e n in a dance step, fastening a n y l o n stocking to her garter; a young girl w i t h short hair and a body so creamy that you c o u l d almost lick it up from the page; a r e d - h a i r e d w o m a n (how do I know that? it's in black and white!), modestlg s m i l i n g and looking aside, with goose bumps on her breasts; another young girl sitting on a s i d e w a l k terrace, doing her best to ignore the impudent gaze of two boys at the next table; the p a n o rama opening up under the petticoat of a girl who is dancing to r o c k ' n ' r o l l in the park; Vinkenoog ("we were poets and still had a lot to learn") w i t h a girl cuddled up against him so nice and cozy they could have been brother and sister; M u l i s c h naked in bed hose to hole w i t h a girl whose bra he has been unable to untie; the tender gesture with w h i c h a blond girl touches the s l o w l y rising penis of her black friend. And a verg strange, r e m a r k a b l g enough perhaps the only lightly perverse


photograph, of a couple on a couch, the man as good as fully clothed (only his bow tie is loose), in w h i c h the head of the h a l f - n a k e d w o m a n who is leaning o b l i q u e l y against his knee appears to have come entirelg free of her bodg. The atmosphere is clearly après sex, but what kind of sex? However, the photograph w h i c h I find bg far the most moving is the one in w h i c h an unusually beautiful girl is being felt up on the breasts by a young man s t a n d i n g b e h i n d her; and then e s p e c i a l l y because of the e x p r e s s i o n on their faces, w h i c h is different from n e a r l y every other one facing us in the book. For the m a j o r i t g of the photographs in L'Amour!, Anneke van der E l s k e n ' s


introductory description of her h u s b a n d ' s love photographs a p p l i e s : "They were more than nude, more than naked. Ed was there with them, as a photographer, as a person, bashful, turned on, amorous, full of expectations, moved, impressed, i m pudent, happy or provocative. He photographed his wives, his girl friends, a c q u a i n tances, passers-by, and w h i l e he photographed them they were all his lovers. The photographs display a mixture of Ed and the objects of his love." Or, in the words of W i l l e m Jan Otten, in his introduction to Once Upon a Time, Van der Elsken's " l i f e ' s w o r k " w h i c h appeared in 1991, "Time after time he succeeded in having someone look at him in a way that his, Van der Elsken's own i r r e s i s t i b i l i t y was revealed." Right! But not in this case. Not in the photograph of the young man whose hands envelop the g i r l ' s breasts as carefully as if they were enfolded in prayer. She herself absolutely does not look at the camera: she looks i n w a r d , at her own pleasure, and by keeping her eyes closed shuts out the photographer. M e a n w h i l e , the young man behind her looks out into the distance, way past the photographer who dances around in front of t h e m , w i t h a p i t y i n g look in his eyes that says, " W h a t ' s w i t h gou, man? Look at what I have in my hands, and compare that w i t h what you have in yours. Which one of us is better off, do you t h i n k ? " I r e a l i z e that there is an e l e m e n t of v i n d i c t i v e n e s s in my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , something a little nasty, but that can't be helped. P o s s i b l y it's a macho thing. I have a l w a y s a d m i r e d the work of Ed van der E l s k e n , its i n s p i r e d quality, its poetry, humour, daring and breadth, and I can even put up w i t h the s e n t i m e n talitg, conceitedness and superficiality w h i c h characterized it every now and then. But w i t h him, the man who more than anyone else photographed what was going on in his life, w i t h him as a person I've a l w a y s had great difficulty. The way he was a l w a y s s l a p p i n g life on the back, the w a y he was constantly checking h i m self, directly or indirectly, in the mirror by way of his camera, and the w a y he used his Great Love for life to exact love from the people around h i m : that i r r e s i s t i b i l i t y of his had an extremely insufferable side to it. What really brought my w h o l e v i s i o n of Ed van der Elsken into sharp focus was an interview w i t h Anneke van der Elsken not long ago in the newspaper Het Parool, in which she tells the story of how she met her husband. He picked her up s o m e w h e r e in North H o l l a n d w h i l e she was h i t c h h i k i n g w i t h some guy from England. As theg were getting out of the car. Van der Elsken asked her to drop bg sometime - but without the English bloke. W e l l , that English bloke, that was me. Or if it wasn't me then, it is now.

(This a r t i c l e w a s f i r s t p u b l i s h e d in the c u l t u r a l s u p p l e m e n t of NRC Handelsblad 20 O c t o b e r , 1995 at the o c c a s i o n of the p u b l i c a t i o n of Ed van der Elsken:

on

L'Amour!)


M I R E I L L E

D E

P U T T E R

F I L M O G R A P H Y


Unless otherwise stated, Ed v a n der Elsken d i d the camera work, e d i t i n g and sound recording for all the f i l m s listed. In v i e w of Van der Elsken's method of w o r k i n g , the categories of direction and s c r e e n p l a y are not a p p l i c a b l e for his f i l m s . Unless otherwise stated, the copyright for a l l the films resides w i t h Anneke van der E l s k e n - H i l h o r s t . The repository locations for the films are: N F M = Nederlands Filmmuseum; NAA = Nederlands A u d i o v i s u e e l Archief; RVD = R i j k s v o o r l i c h t i n g s d i e n s t (Dutch Government Information Service). The designations " c o m p l e t e , " " i n c o m p l e t e " and " w o r k i n g m a t e r i a l " refer to image material and not to sound.

1955: Documentary on the CENTRE

EUROPEEN

OE R E C H E R C H E

N U C L E A I R E in Geneva

(more or less fell through), VPRO (together with Jan Vrijman) late 1950s: T R A F H C SAFETY FILM, VPRO (together with Jan Vrijman) late 1950s: Film about V A N GELDERS P A P E R FACTORY (badly underexposed). VPRO (together with Jan Vrijman) 1958: SAFARI FILM commissioned by safari leader Menri Quintard (lost) 1959-60: TRAVEIOGUES, AVRO (lost) Title (original): ROND DE WERELD MET ED V A N DER E l S K E N (Around the world with Ed van der Elsken) Year produced: ca. 1960 Camera: Ed van der Elsken, Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen Sound: sound track missing Technical assistant: Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen Film material: 16 mm. black-white Running time: 38' 18" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete Description: In 1959 Ed v a n der Elsken and his then wife Gerda v a n der Veen decided to make a trip around the w o r l d . In order to finance it, they sought c o m m i s s i o n s to make photo, film and magazine reportages of the trip. Van der Elsken signed a contract w i t h the Dutch AVRO t e l e v i s i o n station to make Travelogues, short travel features. The Travelogues were a joint project: Van der Elsken f i l m e d and his wife Gerda kept the shotlist. There were i n total about ten short f i l m s of around ten minutes each that were broadcast after the eight o'clock news on Sunday evenings every four weeks. During their trip the Van der Elskens r e g u l a r l y sent the unedited footage w i t h the shotlist and e d i t i n g instructions back to AVRO t e l e v i s i o n , l e e n Timp did the editing. Pirn Jacobs composed the music, and Ger Lugtenburg read the text. Unfortunately, over the course of the years the ten Travelogues have been lost. Recently, however, the compilation film Rond de wereld met Ed van der Elsken w a s d i s c o v e r e d i n the Nederlands Filmmuseum and restored. The film is a collage, as it were, of the high points of the trip, ignoring both c h r o n o l o g i c a l and geographical order. It includes images in long shots of the people and culture of Hong Kong, M e x i c o , California, N e w York, Coney Island, Japan and Sierra Leone. In addition to subjects like dance, b u l l f i g h t i n g and the v i s u a l arts, Ed and e s p e c i a l l y Gerda van der Elsken are regularly in the picture themselves.


Title (original): H A N D E N (Hands) Year produced: ca. 1960 Broadcast: February 6. 1960, in Mensen kijken, VPRO Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: perfotape Running time: 4' 43" Repository: NFM Status: complete Description: Hands are the stars in this e x p e r i m e n t a l short f i l m . Various shots of hands are edited in an associative manner to reveal the central role hands play in human life from birth to death. Hands are seen caring, p l a y i n g , d r a w i n g , w r i t i n g , stroking, caressing and performing hard work. Various people display their hands for the camera. The film closes with the image of a pair of w r i n k l e d hands folded together, resting in the lap of an old man.

Title (assigned): H O M E M O V I E S Year produced: I960 Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 4' 0 0 " Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Street scenes and shots of pedestrians in Amsterdam. Title (original): V A N V A R E N (About sailing) Year produced: 1961 Commissioned by: Koninklijke Nederlandse Reders Vereniging (Royal Dutch Shipowners' Association) Technical assistant: Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: optical Running time: 19' 55" Repository: NFM. RVD Status: complete Description: During their w o r l d trip in 1959-1960, Ed and Gerda van der Elsken shot footage for a film that was to have the Dutch merchant marine around the globe as its theme. The couple were f i l m i n g under contract for the K o n i n k l i j k e Nederlandse Reders V e r e n i g i n g , the coordinating organisation representing the whole of the Dutch merchant navy, w h i c h w a n t e d to have a gift for the 18th birthday of Princess Margriet, the g o d c h i l d of the merchant marine. In return, Gerda and Ed van der Elsken could travel for free on any of the KNRV's ships. Van der Elsken made no sound recordings. The text and music a c c o m p a n y i n g this f i l m are by others, and not in Van der Elsken's style. Van varen shows the romantic aspects of work and life on the ocean and in port cities: f a r e w e l l s in the Amsterdam harbour, the t o i l i n g crew, m a k i n g fast at the end of the w o r k d a y , eating, lazing in the sun, shark fishing. There are shots of dark clouds, flags f l a p p i n g fiercely, curling plumes of smoke, huge crashing waves and an albatross soaring on the w i n d . M a n y of the shots are made from a l o w camera angle, to depict the crew members as proud, strong and heroic. P r o b a b l y several fragments from the


Travelogues are included in this f i l m : bridges in San Francisco, O i s n e y l a n d , c l i m b i n g , d i v i n g and s w i m m i n g children in the port in the P h i l i p p i n e s and in Liberia, s w a r m i n g scenes in the city market in M a n i l a , l o a d i n g and u n l o a d i n g in the harbour of Hong Kong, and Tokyo's g a r i s h nightlife. Title (original): DE A P P E L - I E P (Appel elm) Year produced: 1961 Camera: Ed van der Elsken, Koen Wessing Technical assistants: Johan van der Keuken. Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen, Koen Wessing Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: optical Running time: 29' 16" Repository: NFM, sound track: NAA Status: complete Description: In his studio. Karei Appel carved and painted the stump of an e l m , w h i c h was subsequently set up in a park. P a s s e r s - b y e x a m i n e the ' A p p e l - e l m ' curiously and children dance around it. The film is introduced by the Director of the Stedelijk Museum, W i l l e m Sandberg. Title (original): B E W O G E N B E W E 6 I N G (Moving motion) Year produced: 1961 Broadcast: shown in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 4' 06" Repository: NFM Status: complete Description: This film is an i m p r e s s i o n of the e x h i b i t i o n Bewogen beweging, mounted at the Stedelijk M u s e u m in Amsterdam in 1961. The show was a survey of mobile art, i n c l u d i n g work by Jean Tinguely and others. Title (original): K A R E L A P P E L . C O M P O N I S T (Karei Appel, composerl Year produced: 1961 Broadcast: shown in the Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam Technical assistant: Frits Weiland Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: optical Running time: 16' 25" Repository: NFM 5tatus: complete Description: Late in 1961 Jan Vrijman was c o m m i s s i o n e d to do a film portrait of Karei Appel, entitled De werkelijkheid van Karei Appel' IKarel Appel's reality). Ed van der Elsken did the still photography for this f i l m . Using electronic sound equipment. Appel himself made the music for V r i j m a n ' s f i l m . W i t h the assistance of acoustician Frits W e i l a n d , Appel composed his Musique Barbare in an electronic sound studio. Van der Elsken once again made w o r k i n g


photos in the sound studio. Fascinated by the g o i n g s - o n , at the same time he made sound recordings and film footage. Ed van der Elsken first edited ten to t w e l v e hours of sound down to fifteen minutes. After that he sought out images from his photographs and film footage to accompany the sound. Together w i t h the sound track, film images alternating w i t h photographs of the work in progress sketch the way in w h i c h the film music came into being. The editing of a quick succession of photographs creates m o v i n g images. The film shows how Appel first made the organ piece in the studio. Next he p l a y s the drums with a l l his might. Subsequently e v e r y t h i n g is raised to a c l i m a x in the form of a scream. Between times the sound track is r e v i e w e d , and fragments are removed and the track reedited. At the end of the film there is a transition from the studio in Utrecht to Appel's New York atelier, where Van der Elsken made a short f i l m during his 1960 around the w o r l d trip. In the f i l m . Karei Appel is seen w o r k i n g on a p a i n t i n g . Now the s p e c i a l l y composed music coincides with the image of Appel painting. In the final shot the painter w i p e s the paint from his eyes and signs the painting.

Title (original): D Y L A B Y Year produced: 1962 Broadcast: shown in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: optical Running time: 10' 0 0 " Repository: NFM Status: complete Description: This film is a guided tour of the e x h i b i t i o n Dylaby, w h i c h was to be seen in the Stedelijk M u s e u m in Amsterdam in 1962. The artists N i k i de Saint Phalle, Rauschenberg, Raysse, 5poerri, Tinguely and Ultvedt constructed a d y n a m i c l a b y r i n t h intended to ' a c t i v a t e ' the ' p a s s i v e ' v i e w e r . The f i l m images s h o w us how the v i e w e r s participate in the process. Children and adults comment on the e x h i b i t i o n , and the M u s e u m ' s Oirector, W i l l e m Sandberg, offers an e x p l a n a t i o n .

Title (original): W E L K O M IN HET L E V E N , LIEVE KLEINE (Welcome to life, dear little one) Year produced: 1963 Broadcast: January 15, 1964 and January 24, 1982 VPRO Technical assistant: Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen Film material: 16 mm. black-white Sound: perfotape, partially post-synchronised Running time: 36' 0 0 " Repository: NFM Status: complete Description: A double portrait of Amsterdam's N i e u w m a r k t neighbourhood in 1962-63 and of Van der Elsken's f a m i l y , in w h i c h the approaching birth of his son Daan Dorus takes central stage. The film begins w i t h a w i l d auto ride through the N i e u w m a r k t neighbourhood, during w h i c h the v i e w e r meets Ed van der Elsken, his h e a v i l y pregnant wife Gerda and their 1 ' / i - y e a r - o l d daughter Tinelou. Next the camera zooms in on a little square p i l l o w - a present for Daan Dorus at his birth - with the text " W e l k o m in het leven, lieve k l e i n e . "


We see shots made in the Van der Elsken f a m i l y ' s l i v i n g room. This leads to a panoramic shot of the N i e u w m a r k t area taken from the w i n d o w , f o l l o w e d by street scenes and shots of local residents. The camera then accompanies Gerda and Tinelou, who v i s i t a beauty salon, butcher and market, in that order. On returning home to their s m a l l house on Koningsstraat, Gerda, w i t h her advanced pregnancy, climbs the three flights of steep stairs w i t h Tinelou and w i t h the heavy shopping bags. Gerda expresses her d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n w i t h this state of affairs. Next come photographs and film fragments of Gerda, who is often depressed and s u l l e n d u r i n g the final months of her pregnancy. These images are contrasted w i t h photographs of the ' o l d ' Gerda, who w a s happy and energetic, and with shots of Ed in a garage, where his car is being tuned up. The c l i m a x of the film is the birth of Daan Dorus at the hospital, w h i c h the v i e w e r is a l l o w e d to w i t n e s s . As a closing, the camera again zooms in on the little p i l l o w with w h i c h the f i l m began.

Title (original): L I E V E R D J E S (little darlings) Year produced: 1963 Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 10' 58" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: 5hots of youth in Amsterdam, f i l m e d on a w a r m summer day in Artis (Amsterdam's zoo), the RAI (its convention centre) and the W a t e r l o o p l e i n neighbourhood. Title (original): G R E N Z E N VAN HET LEVEN (Margins of life) Year produced: ca. 1963 Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 28' 16" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: In this s o c i a l l y committed documentary, the poverty of an Amsterdam w o r k i n g class neighbourhood is set off against the luxury of more affluent neighbourhoods in a number of unedited f i l m sequences. There are shots of the housing conditions and home furnishings of a poor f a m i l y , the W a t e r l o o p l e i n and the Dutch Auto Show. Title (original): S P I N O Z A Year produced: 1963 Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 40' 38" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Documentary on the Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza ( 1 6 3 2 - 1 6 7 7 ) . There are shots of the places where Spinoza l i v e d and w o r k e d in Amsterdam, Rijnsburg and Den Haag. His grave in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam is also pictured.


Title (assigned): W A T E R L O O P L E I N Year produced: 1965 Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: perfotape Running time: 12' 11" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Impressions of the W a t e r l o o p l e i n neighbourhood. There are images of demolition work and firemen damping down a burned out b u i l d i n g after a fire in the middle of the winter. Images of the bridge over the IJ are also included. Title (assigned): A F B R A A K W A T E R L O O P L E I N 1 (Waterlooplein demolition 1) Year produced: 1965 Film material: 35 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 5' 4 5 " Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Shots of excavation work alongside the partly d e m o l i s h e d W a t e r l o o p l e i n and images of the nearby M o z e s en Aaron church. Title lassigned): A F B R A A K W A T E R L O O P L E I N

2 (Waterlooplein demolition 2)

Year produced: 1965 Film material: 16 mm and 35 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 2' 36" Status: incomplete, working material Description: See Afbraak W a t e r l o o p l e i n 1 Title (original): W A T E R L O O P L E I N

CRAZY

SCOPE

Year produced: 1965 Film material: 16 mm and 35 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 13' 59" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Impressions of W a t e r l o o p l e i n and the W a t e r l o o p l e i n neighbourhood. The shots have been made w i t h a s p e c i a l lens, an anamorphot, w h i c h distorts the images. Title (assigned|: A F B R A A K

E N O P B O U W (Demolition and construction)

Year produced: 1965 Film material: 35 mm. black-white Sound: silent Running time: 5' 4 5 " Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Shots of demolition and urban renewal in Amsterdam.


Title (original): FlETSEN (Cycling) Year produced: 1965 Film material: 16 mm. black-white Sound: silent Running time: 10' 35" Repository: NFM Status: complete Description: Street scenes in A m s t e r d a m w i t h many c y c l i s t s , a s i n g l e motorcyclist and other traffic. These shots were much later edited into the film Bye as an ' i n t e r m i s s i o n short,' accompanied by music by V i v a l d i .

Title (original): TROTS ISRAEL (Proud I srael) Year produced: 1965 Commissioned by: Willem Sandberg Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: optical Running time: 16' 33" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete Description: Documentary on the Israel M u s e u m in Jerusalem. W i l l e m Sandberg d e s c r i b e s the collection that he a s s e m b l e d for the museum, the construction of the museum b u i l d i n g and the sculpture garden. There is footage of the opening on May 11,1965, at w h i c h many artists and p o l i t i c i a n s are present. B i l l y Rose gives a speech.

Title (origina i): O B E R H A U S E N X I E W E S T D E U T S C H E

KURZFILMTAGE

Year produced: 1965 Broadcast: in Film '65, KRO Film material: 16 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 7' 4 8 " Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: A short i m p r e s s i o n of the avant garde f i l m f e s t iv al that took place from February 21 to 27,1965, in Oberhausen, Germany, w i t h the Weg zum Nachbarn as the connecting theme. It includes a large number of fragments from the f i l m s s h o w n there, f i l m e d from the screen. The audience and the awards ceremony also are i n c l u d e d . The film fragments are i n t e r s p e r s e d w i t h s e v e r a l photographs.

Title (assigned): S T I E F B E E N E N Z O O N ("Steptoe and Son") Year produced: 1965 Film material: 35 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 2' 4 8 " Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Film short i n s p i r e d by the Dutch t e l e v i s i o n series about dealers in rags, metal


and old paper, based on the British comedy Steptoe and Son, and set in the area around W a t e r l o o p l e i n . There are shots of the facade of the premises of Stiefbeen en Zn., completely hung with dolls. Title (assigned): DE D O K W E R K E R (The dockworker) Year produced: 1965 Film material: 35 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 0' 4 4 " Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: Film short on the annual commemoration for the February Strike, at the monument to the dockworkers on the Jonas DaniĂŤl M e i j e r p l e i n in Amsterdam. Title (original): HET W A T E R L O O P L E I N V E R D W I J N T (Waterlooplein disappears! Year produced: 1967 Broadcast: March B. 1967 in: Uit Bellevue. VARA Sound recording: Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen Film material: 16 mm. black-white Sound: perfotape Running time: 11' 32" Repository: NAA Status: complete Description: Reportage of what is reputed to be the final market day on the old W a t e r l o o p l e i n in Amsterdam. With the M o z e s en Aaron church in the background, Ed van der Elsken gives an i m p r e s s i o n of the W a t e r l o o p l e i n market, the stall holders, the merchandise and the shoppers. Dealers are i n t e r v i e w e d and Van der Elsken himself provides a commentary on the events. A part of the film was shot in slow motion and projected at higher speed. The film ends w i t h the market being taken down and cleared away and the approach of n i g h t f a l l .

Title (original): O R L D W T U R M A C Year produced: 1968 Film material: 35 mm, colour Sound: silent Running time: 3' 39" Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: A film about the Peter Stuyvesant company art collection, w h i c h is hung in the factory shop floors. The paintings hang between the clattering cigarette machines. The camera zooms in on the art works.


Title (assigned): S P R I N G E N D E M A N EN V R O U W (Jumping man and woman) Year produced: 1970 Film material: 35 mm, b l a c k - w h i t e Running time: 1' 38" Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: A jumping man and w o m a n are f i l m e d from ground l e v e l ; a young man, a w o m a n and a dog run and jump around and over the camera. The images are shot in s l o w motion and projected at higher speed.

Title (original): DE V E R L I E F D E C A M E R A (The Infatuated Camera) Year produced: 1971 Broadcast: June 24. 1971 VPRO Camera: Ed van der Elsken. Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen Technical assistants: Gerda van der Elsken-van der Veen, Bert Nienhuis Film material: 16 mm, colour and black-white Sound: optical Running time: 42' 50" Repository: NFM, RVD Status: complete Description: Between 1965 and 1979 Van der Elsken t r a v e l l e d w o r l d w i d e as a photo reporter for the i l l u s t r a t e d press. Ed van der Elsken's own photographic work is the central subject in his s e l f - p o r t r a i t . De verliefde camera. The f i l m was honoured w i t h the Dutch g o v e r n m e n t ' s N a t i o n a l Prize for Cinematic Art in 1971. The f i l m begins w i t h the image and sound of a w o m a n in labour. Van der Elsken records the birth in photographs w i t h the ' infatuated c a m e r a ' and discusses the photo series on w h i c h he is w o r k i n g , w h i c h is to show the cycle of human life from cradle to grave. W h i l e V a n der Elsken is t a l k i n g , we see photographs and f i l m fragments of pregnant w o m e n , birth, c h i l d r e n , adolescents, intercourse, love, tenderness and adults. Next, using photographs, sound tapes and a film clip. Van der Elsken talks about his f o r e i g n travel reportages done for the magazine Avenue, among others. The p h o t o - f i l m on t r a v e l reportages about T a n z a n i a , K e n y a , Cambodia and other places is interrupted by images of a second birth. Van der Elsken proudly s h o w s us his d i a p o s i t i v e archive c o n t a i n i n g about 5 0 0 0 images of trips to distant lands. Using these s l i d e s Van der Elsken t e l l s us about reportages in M a d a g a s c a r , Japan, India, Cuba, M o s c o w , N e p a l , Greenland and Indonesia, w h e r e he met Sukarno. Some black and white f i l m images illustrate a v i s i t to Prince Juan Carlos of Spain at home. The film ends in the rural s u r r o u n d i n g s of Edam. These f i n a l shots are made w i t h a

fish e y e ' lens that distorts the image. We see the w h o l e Van der Elsken f a m i l y r i d i n g in

a s m a l l j e e p - l i k e auto, de M i n i m o k e .

Title lorigina i): D E A T H I N T H E P O R T J A C K S O N H O T E L subtitle: Een portret van Vali Myers [A portrait of Vali Myers] Year produced: 1972 Broadcast: September 28. 1972 VPRO Montage: Co van Harten Sound recording: Bert Nienhuis


Film material: 16 mm. colour Sound: separate magnetic Running time: 36' 12" Repository: NAA Status: complete Description: Death in the Port Jackson Hotel is a f i l m e d portrait of the Australian artist V a l i M y e r s . She was also the central figure i n Van der Elsken's photo-novel love on the Left Bank. The film opens w i t h a series of photographs from this book. M y e r s recalls memories of the difficult postwar years in Paris and her opium addiction. In an interview in the rural surroundings of Van der Elsken's North H o l l a n d farm, V a l i M y e r s describes what has happened since the Paris years. She is w o r k i n g on the d r a w i n g "Death in the Port Jackson Hotel," over w h i c h the camera moves. The f i l m crew travels south to visit V a l i in her own little isolated paradise, in a v a l l e y on the west coast of Italy. She lives there together w i t h dozens of animals and Gianni Menecetti, her 1 9 - y e a r - o l d friend. Vali fills her days with d r a w i n g and t a k i n g care of her a n i m a l s . Her d r a w i n g s are e x t e n s i v e l y illustrated. There are images of Vali and Gianni k i s s i n g , making love and dancing in the green v a l l e y . Thanks to the d r a w i n g s and animals, she has regained her vigour. The film ends w i t h the d r a w i n g we had seen her w o r k i n g on, "Death in the Port Jackson Hotel," w h i c h through its theme of death and resurrection functions as the key for understanding V a l i ' s life, and for this documentary.

Title (original): S P E L E N M A A R . . . (Keep on playing...) Year produced: 1972 Commissioned by: AVRO Broadcast: October 28. 1972 AVRO Sound recording: Gerda van der Veen Film material: 16 mm. colour Sound: separate magnetic Running time: 80' 19" Repository: NAA Rights: AVRO Description: Ed v a n der Elsken made this f i l m portrait of Toon Hermans on the occasion of his o n e - m a n - s h o w in November, 1972. There are shots of the orchestral rehearsals and preparations for the show, and of a circus performance by the clown Popov. There is also an interview w i t h Hermans at home, in w h i c h his sons also have an opportunity to speak. Title (assigned): P A A R D E L E V E N (Horse's life) Year produced: 1972 Film material: 16 mm. colour Sound: perfotape Running time: 8' 0 8 " Repository: NFM Status: complete Description: Ed v a n der Elsken's mare is in foal from a s t a l l i o n in the neighbourhood. The horse grows steadily fatter, and brings a colt into the w o r l d . Very soon the colt is trotting through the meadow with its mother. Several shots are made with a fish e y e ' lens that distorts the image.


Title (assigned): D l E R E N OP HET LAND (Animals in the countryside) Year produced: 1972 Film material: 35 mm, black-white Sound: silent Running time: 1' 0 0 " Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: Film short w i t h images of s w a l l o w s in the nest and sheep in pasture. Title (assigned): K O G E L S T O O T S T E R (Shot-putter) Year produced: 1972 Film material: 35 mm, colour Sound: silent Running time: 1' 05" Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: The central character in this f i l m short is a w o m a n shot-putter. The shots are made from various angles. The film camera is tilted as if it were a photo camera. The images are shot in s l o w motion and projected at higher speed. Title (assigned): T O M

ĂœKKER

Year produced: 1973 Film material: 35 mm, colour Sound: silent Running time: 0' 32" Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: In this short f i l m the Dutch tennis star Tom Okker is seen in action. The f i l m camera is tilted as if it were a photo camera. The images are shot in slow motion and projected at higher speed. Title (original): E D A M Year produced: 1973 Film material: 16 mm, colour Sound: silent Running time: 8' 52" Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: Film images of a youth orchestra p l a y i n g w i n d instruments. Title (assigned): HET P R I N S B E R N H A R D FONDS HELPT (The Prince Bernhard Fund helps) I, II, III Year produced: 1973 Commissioned by: Prins Bernhard Fonds Film material: 35 mm, colour Sound: optical


Running lime: 3' 50" Repository: NFM Rights: Bob Kommer Audiovisuele Communicatie Status: complete Description: This short film is an appeal for contributions for the annual Carnation Collection of the Prins Bernhard Fonds. The f i l m opens with images of a youth orchestra of about 25 w i n d instruments. The camera zooms in on a young trumpet player. Ed van der Elsken tells us that the Prins Bernhard Fonds not only helps f a m i l i a r cultural institutions, but that 7 0 % of the money stays close to home and goes to music schools, youth associations and neighbourhood centres. W h i l e Van der Elsken informs us about the Prins Bernhard Fonds, the camera s w i n g s from right to left, then to behind the back of the director and again from left to right in order to catch a l l the orchestra members. The short ends w i t h a close-up of a flutist. At the end, the bank account number of the Carnation appeal appears on the screen.

Title (assigned): S L O O T J E S P R I N 6 E N (Ditch jumping) Year produced: 1974 Film material: 35 mm. colour Sound: silent Running time: 0' 43" Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: Children jump over a drainage ditch in a meadow. At the same time, shots of r u n n i n g horses are to be seen. The f i l m camera is tilted as if it were a photo camera. The images are s h o w n at higher speed. Title (assigned): T O U W T R E K K E N (Tug-of -war| Year produced: ca. 1976 Commissioned by: Nederlandse Touwtrekkersbond Technical assistant: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Film material: Super 8. colour Running time: 14' 45" Repository: original is lost: video film in possession of Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Description: At the beginning of the 1970s Van der Elsken made several films about sports champions. He was particularly fascinated by the p h y s i c a l endurance and the emotions of sports figures. This f i l m , made on commission, opens w i t h images of the summer t u g - o f - w a r c h a m p i o n s h i p sponsored by the Nederlandse Touwtrekkers Bond. We see preparations being made for the contest, such as team members w e i g h i n g in, inspection of their shoes, and checking the p a r t i c i p a n t s ' passports. The referee gives the s i g n a l for the match to start. Each participant assumes into the r o p e - p u l l e r ' s posture, they dig their heels into the ground, and the contest begins. Spurred on by the coach, the participants give it a l l they've got. After the e x c i t i n g struggle is over, the r i v a l s shake each others hands. In the final scene, several clips of matches from the winter competition at a r i d i n g - s c h o o l at K w a d i j k in North Holland are shown.


Title (original): HET IS NIET MIS

WAT ZIJ DOEN

(What they're doing is a good thing): Een film van Memisa Year produced: 1978 Commissioned by: Memisa (Medical Mission Action) Broadcast: January 16, 1978 AVRO Editing: Ed van der Elsken, Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Sound recording: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst f i l m material: 16 mm, colour (Super 8 original now lost) Sound: perfotape Running time: 60' 0 0 " Repository: NFM. Memisa Status: complete Description: As a result of a slide show Van der Elsken made about Bangladesh, the photog r a p h e r - f i l m m a k e r was asked to make a f i l m for M e m i s a . M e m i s a is a Dutch Roman Catholic organisation p r o v i d i n g medical help in Third World countries. The f i l m opens with a slide s h o w lasting five minutes w h i c h shows the most important facets of the trip. Next we are s h o w n a v i s u a l report on the trip that Ed van der Elsken and his g i r l f r i e n d Anneke Hilhorst made to visit a large number of M e m i s a posts and projects. The documentary s h o w s what the money collected by M e m i s a is being used for in P a k i s t a n , Thailand, West Borneo, B a n g l a desh, India, M a l a w i , Madagascar, Brazil, Haiti, the Solomon Islands and B o u g a i n v i l l e , Papua New Guinea. There are programmes to help the homeless, the sick and the general population by means of distribution of clothing, food, medicines and written material and information on nutrition, hygiene and health. M e m i s a w o r k e r s try, as much as possible, to train local people to continue their work. The f i l m closes with a r e v i e w of the high points of the trip and the bank number for M e m i s a .

Title (original): A V O N T U R E N OP HET LAND (Adventures in the countryside) Year produced: 1980 Broadcast: March 30, 1980 VPRO Editing: Ed van der Elsken, Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Sound recording: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Film material: Super 8, colour Sound: perfotape Running time: 78' 41" Repository: NAA Status: complete Description: Avonturen op het land is a song of praise for nature, and has as its subject the passage of the four seasons in the square kilometer of polder surrounding Van der Elsken's farm on the U s s e l m e e r d i j k near Edam. We are given a panorama of the area from a s m a l l plane. The f i l m opens w i t h a night shot of the moon. The f o l l o w i n g shot turns our attention to d r i v i n g cattle to the cattle market at Purmerend. In an nearby stable, footage is shot of the birth of two lambs and a calf. The farmer throws calves that are being released into the pasture for the first time into the drainage channel that serves as a fence around it in order to instill an aversion to water. M a r t i j n Roos, from Edam, demonstrates how he can communicate w i t h frogs and how he can elicit mating behaviour from them. From a lookout tower Van der Elsken films the many birds in the area. In the early morning hours Van der Elsken shoots


footage of the c o m m e r c i a l f i s h e r m a n Klaas Beunder as he hauls in his fyke nets. In an aquarium, tadpoles, water fleas, snails, leaches and other water a n i m a l s appear to move around and dance to orchestral music. With the aid of an electron microscope, shots are made of water fleas and other insects from the drainage ditch. Title (assigned): C A M E R A T E S T V A N D E R E L S K E N Year produced: 1980 f i l m material: 16 mm, colour Sound: silent Running time: 2' 42" Repository: NFM Status: working material Description: A camera test is being carried out in this footage. The test is carried out with the aid of a board with a card pasted on it and sheet music. The camera test takes place outdoors; there is a house trailer to be seen in the garden. Title (original): M l S T E R EO EN DE S P R E K E N D E F I L M (Mr. Ed and the talking film) Year produced: 1981 Broadcast: May 31. 1981 VPRO Editing: Ed van der Elsken. Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Film material: 5uper 8, colour Sound: perfotape Running time: 74' 31" Repository: NAA Status: complete Description: Mister Ed en de sprekende film is a reportage that Ed and Anneke van der Elsken made of their trip around Europe in a V o l k s w a g e n bus. The film begins w i t h the Van der Elsken f a m i l y at home, where the final preparations are being made for a trip to the C贸te d'Azur. The f a m i l y drives along Belgium's North Sea coast, pays a visit to the Belgian sculptor Raoul d'Haese. The camera zooms in on the artist and the bronze sculpture on w h i c h he is w o r k i n g . In Calais they look at Rodin's Burgers of Calais, and in Dieppe, on the French Channel coast, they visit the monuments from the i n v a s i o n . The whole trip is dominated by Johnny, who must be looked after. After visits to Paris and Antwerp, in Auvers sur Oise shots are made of the graves of Vincent and Theo van Gogh. The f a m i l y camps along the Loire for some days. South of Lyon they visit the Palais Ideal, built from boulders by the postman Ferdinand Cheval at the end of the 19th century. In Genoa Ed and Anneke van der Elsken visit the Staglieno cemetery w i t h its exuberant grave markers. The sculpture groups are arranged in g a l l e r i e s in w h i c h it is too dark to film w i t h a super-8 camera. Therefore d i a p o s i t i v e s are made that are later edited into the f i l m . The f a m i l y visits a l l the famous places on the C枚te d'Azur between M a r s e i l l e and Genoa: Menton, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Nice and Antibes. Here lots of shots are taken of modern architecture and artwork, but also of the beach, the sauntering summer visitors and the boulevards. On the return trip, from the V o l k s w a g e n bus Van der Elsken gives some tips to the v i e w e r about f i l m i n g w i t h super-8. The f i l m ends w i t h the return home in Edam.


Title (original): W E L K O M I N H E T L E V E N , LIEVE K L E I N E B I S (Welcome to life, dear little one: the sequell Year produced: 1981 Broadcast: January 24. 1982 VPRQ 5ound recording: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Technical assistants: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst. W i l l i a m Vogeler, Klaas Beunder, Anton van de Koppel, Henk Meinema Film material: 16 mm, black-white and colour |5D%| Sound: perfotape Running time: 38' 4 5 " Repository: NFM Status: complete Description: In 1981 Ed van der Elsken came across his old f i l m . Welkom in het leven, lieve kleine. Because of the changes in the times, the neighbourhood and the f a m i l y , he decided to make a sequel. By means of i n t e r v i e w s he s h o w s us how it's going with the c h i l d r e n eighteen years later. Film images s h o w us that his son Daan Dorus has since left home. He now l i v e s in an Amsterdam squat and is a drummer in a band. In the f o l l o w i n g scene Van der Elsken i n t e r v i e w s his daughter Tinelou, who s t i l l l i v e s w i t h Gerda in the house on Koningsstraat. Tinelou tells about what she is doing: s t u d y i n g at the Atheneum and m a k i n g theatre costumes. She s h o w s off some of her designs. Van der Elsken shoots footage at the opening of the first photo e x h i b i t i o n by Gerda van der Veen, w h o m he divorced ten years before. He zooms in on the photographs. At the close of the f i l m , a f r i e n d from the Zeedijk talks about changes in the neighbourhood w h i l e street scenes taken w i t h a hidden camera are on the screen. Just like part I, this sequel ends w i t h the little p i l l o w w i t h the text " W e l k o m in het leven, lieve k l e i n e . " Title (origina i|: W O R L D

PRESS

PHOTO

Year produced: 1981 Film material: 16 mm, colour Sound: perfotape Running time: 4' 0 0 " Repository: NFM Status: incomplete, working material Description: These documentary shots about the W o r l d Press Photo a w a r d s for 198D contain images of the deliberations of the jury and the ultimate a w a r d presentations. The jury consists of Joop Swart, Vincent M e n t z e l , Gerhard Eckele and Harold Evans. The first prize is presented to photographer Mike W e l l s by M a y o r Polak of A m s t e r d a m . Title (original): E E N FOTOGRAAF

FILMT A M S T E R D A M

(A photographer films Amsterdam! Working title: Amsterdams Peil (Amsterdam sounding! Year produced: 1982 Production company: MMC Film BV. (Thijs Chanowskil Commissioned by: Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Social Welfare and the City of Amsterdam Broadcast: June 29, 19B3 VPRO


Technical assistants: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst, Klaas Beunder, Peter Hekma. Henk Meinema Film material: 16 mm, ECN, colour Sound: optical Running time: 57' 11" Repository: RVD, NFM Status: complete Description: As its title suggests. Een fotograaf filmt Amsterdam is a photographer's f i l m . The f i l m i n g photographer is Ed van der Elsken, and he gives us a portrait of his city and its residents. Van der Elsken shoots his footage on foot, s t r o l l i n g the busy streets. In the early hours of the morning he films the s l u m b e r i n g city centre from his automobile. Finally, he makes aerial shots from a s m a l l plane. The images from the automobile are shot slow motion. When they are p l a y e d at normal speed, the auto appears to be w h i z z i n g through the streets at d i z z y i n g speeds. These speeded-up d r i v e r - s h o t s mark out the ' hunting grounds' of the f i l m i n g photographer: old Amsterdam. The footage from the auto recurs w i t h a certain regularity, g i v i n g the film its structure and p r o v i d i n g points of rest in the f i l m , contrasting with the noise of traffic and the rowdy pedestrians in the shots that were made on foot. Ed van der Elsken w a n d e r e d through the city for a whole summer, hunting those people who stood out from the masses and fascinated him. The result is no picture of the average Amsterdam resident, but, in the idiom of Van der Elsken, a hodge-podge of rebellious adolescents, w r i n k l e d o l d - t i m e r s . Hells Angels, people in w h e e l c h a i r s , punkers, vagrants, junkies, e x t r e m e l y beautiful people, r e v o l t i n g l y ugly people, street musicians and street performers. Van der Elsken provokes reactions from passers-by, and then records them.

Title (original): B Y E Year produced: 1990 Broadcast: January 27, 1991 VPRO Camera: Ed van der Elsken, Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Editing: Ulrike Mischke Sound recording: Ed van der Elsken, Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Technical assistant: Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst Film material: video, colour and black-white Running time: 1 hour 4 8 " Repository: NAA Status: complete Description: When, in September, 1988, Ed van der Elsken w a s told that he had incurable prostate cancer, there was only one way for him to be able to get through the via dolorosa that lay before him: to seek to counterbalance it by m a k i n g the approach of death tangible and using it as the basis of his work. The film Bye is a self-portrait, that is to say that the i l l protagonist and the f i l m m a k e r are one and the same person. In a space in his own house he converted into a studio, in a long monologue Van der Elsken tells the v i e w e r about the progress of his illness, his p h y s i c a l decline, the rage, the sorrow, the acceptance of his illness, and his f a r e w e l l to life. The v i e w e r doesn't take in the event directly, but via a large w a l l mirror. Now and then Van der Elsken shoots footage from his w h e e l c h a i r : by m o v i n g the camera across the x - r a y s he s h o w s where his tumors are. He also takes several shots of his wife Anneke, who nurses and assists him, his son Johnny, the


a n i m a l s and nature around the farm. Halfway through the documentary the short f i l m Fietsen is edited in. Van der Elsken is visited by his daughter Tinelou and by two f e l l o w p h o t o graphers, Ata Kando - his first wife - and Eva Besnyö. With his last energy Van der Elsken fights to finish up his retrospective photo book and his film. In the final shot of the f i l m , Ed van der Elsken addresses the viewer one more time, very gravely. He breaks off w i t h it and says f a r e w e l l . " S h o w who you a r e ! " is the motto he passes on to the viewer, after w h i c h he waves to us and says the final " B y e . " With the sound of Jacques Brel Ed s h o w s us who he was in a m i n u t e - l o n g photomontage: a gifted and humane photographer who was in love w i t h life.

AUDIO VISUALS

(1 9 7 4 - 1 9 8 0)

dispositive series with music - SCHIPHOL - DE VOORSLAG (commissioned by De Voorslag, an institution for p a r t - t i m e education for w o r k i n g youth) - AMSTERDAM - EYE LOVE Y o u (for the Frankfurt Book Fair and e x h i b i t i o n at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam! -NINA

HAGEN

- STAGLIENO synchronized dia-sound series -BANGLADESH (broadcast on Hier en Nu\. NCRV -ZANOVOORT - DE EFTELING - HONG KONG -JAPANESE GARDENS - SUMO WRESTLING - A PORTRAIT OF NORTH HOLLAND,VARA

CAMERA

WORK

FOR

OTHER

DIRECTORS

LEEN TIMP

1959-61 TRAVELOGUES (cutting and final editing by Leen Timp), AVRO 1965 Footage for Mies Bouwman's 1965 Christmas programme, Stillige nacht, heilige nacht, VARA 1966 Van der Elsken provides f i l m contributions for the t e l e v i s i o n programme Zo is het toevallig ook nog's een keer. VARA 1966 Footage for the Wim Sonneveld t e l e v i s i o n programme, VARA 1966-67 M a n y short documentaries for the programme Mies en scène, for w h i c h Ed did the camera work and Gerda the sound, VARA: - KERSTSTAL 1967 - FEUILLE-FILM 1967


- A R O SCHENK EN KEES VERKERK IN FINLAND - W A R R E N BEATTY IN PARIJS - PARTY VAN EDDIE BARCLAY - E E N NACHT OP STAP MET ADAMO - and others 1967 Footage for M e m o r i a l Day film. May 4 - NTS 1967 Footage for TELEAC computer course Automatisering

FONS

RADEMAKERS

1962 Als twee druppels water (Van der Elsken as camera a s s i s t a n t / f o c u s - p u l l e r / still photographer with cameraman Raoul Coutard)

HANS

KEILER

1964 De schrijver verbergt iets. Een documentaire over Heinrich B端ll, VPRO 1965 M u l t a t u l i - f i l m (film about the life of Dutch writer M u l t a t u l i in Djakarta), NTS 1965 An unfinished reportage about Spain, KRO 1965-'66 Footage for t e l e v i s i o n programme Galerij, about Sharoff and the Cannes film festival, among others, KRO 1965 Film footage for the programme Herdenking 100 jaar Vondelpark. VPRO 1967 Footage for t e l e v i s i o n programme about James B a l d w i n , KRO

JOHAN

VAN OER KEUKEN

1965 Ed and Gerda van der Elsken did part of the camera and sound for the film BEPPIE, about a neighbour girl of Johan van der Keuken's in Amsterdam.

HENK OE BY

1966 Signalement (rehearsals of Peter Schat's opera Labgrinth], VARA (sound Gerda van der E l s k e n - v a n der Veen) 1967 f i l m shorts Grand Prix Zandvoort 1967

JAN

VRIJMAN

1963 Op de bodem van de hemel 1965 Doden van de hemel 1966 Een vervuld leven, a t e l e v i s i o n film documentary about Joop Colson on the occasion of his death. Via Jan V r i j m a n ' s Cineproductie. 1972 Een andere kijk op zwakzinnigheid

PETER

ADAM

1973 Them and Us (a film about Dutch culture, technical assistant: Gerda van der Veen), BBC

WIM

VAN DER LINDEN

1 9 7 2 - 7 3 film footage of various pop concerts


OTHER

CONTRIBUTIONS

TO

FILMS

1971 t e l e v i s i o n election spot for D'66 party 1972 Graag gedaan, 2 installments, NOS 1973 Muziek in uw straatje, item on LES AMOUREUX DES BANCS PUBLICS, NCRV From the early 1960s to the b e g i n n i n g of the 1970s Ed van der Elsken made many home movies on d o u b l e - e i g h t film, in black and white and colour.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

OF

THE

FlLMOGRAPHY

Archive, Nederlands Filmmuseum (NFM). Nederlands Audiovisueel Archief (NAA). Film and Photograph Archive of the R i j k s v o o r l i c h t i n g s d i e n s t (RVD). A u d i o v i s u a l Archive of the Stichting Film en Wetenschap. Ed van der Elsken Papers, Nederlands Fotoarchief, Rotterdam. Ed van der Elsken Archive, Studie- en Documentatiecentrum voor Fotografie, Rijksuniversiteit Leiden. Katholieke Illustratie-. 1959: nrs. 39, 40,45,48,51; I960: nrs. 8. 9.10,13.16,19. 24. 28. 32. 35. 46. 51. Beatrijs: 1959: nrs. 39.41,44.47. 50; 1960: nrs. 4. 8. 9.11. 15.16.19, 20. 22, 23. 32, 35, 44, 45, 47. 50, 53; 1961: nr. 2. Vrije Geluiden (January 11-18,19641; 25 (June 1 -26,1971); 39 (September 23-30,1972). VPRO-gids 13 (March 2 9 - A p r i l 5.1980); 22 (May 30-June 5,1981); 4 (January 23-29,1982); 26 (June 25-July 1,1983); 4 (26 January 26-February 1.1991). Sweet Life, Amsterdam 1966. Jan Overduin, " M e m i s a : Uw hulp komt terecht," in: Televizier (January 14,1978) 2, p. 14-15. E. de Regt, "Ed van der Elsken," in: I.Th. Leijerzapf (ed.). Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse fotografie. Alphen aan den Rijn 1984. E. de Regt, " B i o g r a f i e Ed van der Elsken," in: E. de Regt, et al. (text). Once Upon a Time, Amsterdam 1991. E. van der Elsken, in: De Gids ( M a r c h - A p r i l , 1992) Bye (complete text of the film). M. de Putter, Ed van der Elsken Tussen foto en film (doctoral dissertation), Utrecht, June 1997.


PHOTO

BOOKS

• Een liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint-Germain-des-Prés,

Amsterdam (De Bezige Bij) n.d. [1956].

German ed.: Liebe in Saint Germain des Prés, Hamburg (Rowohlt Verlag); English ed.: Love on the Left Bank, London (Andre Deutsch) • Jan V r i j m a n (text), Bagara, Amsterdam (De Bezige Bij) n.d. [1958]. Idem French, English, South African eds.; German ed.: Das echte Afrika, Hamburg (Hoffmann und Campe) • Jan V r i j m a n et al (text). Jazz, Amsterdam (De Bezige Bij) 1959 • Sweet Life, Amsterdam (De Bezige Bij), 1966, Idem English ed. London (Thames and Hudson), American ed.: N e w York (Harry N. Abrams), German ed.: Cologne (DuMont) and Buchgemeinschafts Ausgabe; 5panish ed.: Barcelona (Editorial Lumen); Japanese ed.: Tokyo (Tokyo Photographic School); French ed.: La douceur de vivre, Paris (Editions Cercle d ' Art) • Wereldreis in foto's (4 vols.), n.p. [Leeuwarden] (Coöp. Condensfabriek 'Friesland') n.d. [1967/1968] • Eye Love You, Bussum (Van Holkema G Warendorf) 1977 • Hans Bouma (text and editing). Zomaar in een sloot ergens bij Edam, Bussum, (Van Holkema & Warendorf) 1977 • Hallo! Een nieuwe Ed van der Elsken, Bussum (Van Holkema & Warendorf) 1978 • Amsterdam'. Oude foto's - 1947-1970, Bussum (Van Holkema & Warendorf) 1979; 2nd ed.: Houten (Bruna) 1988 • Avonturen op het land, Bussum (Van Holkema G Warendorf) n.d. [1980] • Parijs! Foto's 1950-1954, Amsterdam (Bert Bakker) 1981; French ed.: Paris! Photos 1950-1954, Paris (Editions Silene) 1985 • Amsterdam?, Amsterdam (Bert Bakker) 1984 • Elsken: Paris 1950-1954. Tokyo (Libroport Co. Ltd.) 1985 • Are you famous?, Amsterdam (Meulenhoff/Landshoff) 1985 • A. de S w a a n (foreword). Jong Nederland: 'Adorable rotzakken' 1947-1987, Amsterdam (Bert Bakker) 1987 • Elsken: Japan 1959-1960. Tokyo (Libroport Co. Ltd.) 1987 • De ontdekking van Japan, Amsterdam (Fragment) 1988 • Jazz 1955-1959.61. Tokyo (libroport Co. Ltd.) 1988. Idem Dutch ed.: J. Bernlef, Erik v a n den Berg (text), Amsterdam (Fragment) 1991 • Natlab, Eindhoven (Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium) 1989 • Afrika 1957, Tokyo (Libroport Co. Ltd.) 1990 • Evelyn de Regt et al (text). Once Upon a Time, Amsterdam (Fragment) 1991; Japanese ed.: Tokyo (Libroport) 1991. • Once Upon a Time. Tokyo (Bunkamura catalogue) 1993. • Ed van der Elsken. L'Amour! Foto's 1950-1990, Amsterdam (Van Gennep) 1995. Edited by Anthon Beeke and Anneke v a n der Elsken. • Ed van der Elsken: Hong Kong. The Wag It Was. Manchester (Dewi Lewis Publishing,, Amsterdam, De Verbeelding) 1997. (with a foreword and captions written in English by Ed van der Elsken).


IMPORTANT

EXHIBITIONS

AFTER

1990

|s) indicates a one-man e x h i b i t i o n , (G) a group e x h i b i t i o n . This summary includes e x c l u s i v e l y presentations after 1990. For other information, see Once Upon a Time (see Bibliography). Ed v a n der Elsken. Once Upon a Time, foto's 1950-1990 |s): Stedelijk M u s e u m , Amsterdam, 1991. Bunkamura Gallery, Tokyo, 1993. Daimaru department store, Osaka, 1993. Fotomuseum Winterlhur, 1994. Galerie Agathe Gaillard, Paris, 1991 (s). Howard Greenberg Gallery, N e w York, 1993 (5). Autoportrait, Citroen Galerie, Amsterdam, 1993 (s). Ed van der Elsken in kleur. Bloom Gallery, Amsterdam, 1994 (s). Ed van der Elsken. L Amour! Foto's 1950-1990 (s). Kunsthal, Rotterdam, 1996. Love on the Left Bank, Photogaphers' Gallery, 1996 (s). Ed van der Elsken. Entre films et photos (s). Institut NĂŠerlandais, Paris, 1996. Ed van der Elsken: Hong Kong (s). Nederlands Foto Instituut, Rotterdam, 1997. Documenta X\b\. Kassei. 1997.


S H O R T

1925

B I O G R A P H Y

March 10: Eduard v a n der Elsken is born in Amsterdam. He has an older sister, Rie, and

a younger brother, Bert, w i l l follow. Ed's father has an interior decorating shop with modern furniture and contemporary arts and crafts; his mother is a housewife. Both are committed members of the SDAP (Social Democratic Labour Party). 1937

After elementary school Ed goes to a three year secondary school programme, and

f o l l o w i n g that, attends a two year business course. He wants to become a sculptor, and in his free time goes to learn stone cutting at Amsterdam's Van Tetterode Steenhouwerij. 1943

Ed signs up at the Instituut voor K u n s t n i j v e r h e i d s o n d e r w i j s , the predecessor of the

Rietveld Academy, where Mart Stam is the director. 1944

After the general preparatory class, Ed signs up for the professional sculpture course.

In connection with Nazi forced labour programmes, however, in the summer he goes underground in Bergeyk, North Brabant. 1947

Van der Elsken gets to see a copy of the photobook Naked City by Weegee, and this

makes an o v e r w h e l m i n g i m p r e s s i o n on him. He is determined to become a photographer, begins to work in various photo shops, and takes a correspondence course w i t h the Fotovakschool in Den Haag. He u l t i m a t e l y fails the final e x a m i n a t i o n . 1950

Ed v a n der Elsken becomes a member of the GKf (photographer's section of the

federation of practitioners of the a p p l i e d arts). He remains a member of the federation until his death in 1990. In the summer Ed flees the u n i n s p i r i n g creative climate i n The Netherlands, and goes to Paris where he gets a job at the photo laboratory at Magnum. He meets the Hungarian photographer Ata Kando. 1954

June 26: Ed v a n der Elsken and Ata Kando marry. They had lived together since 1950.

1955

In January Ed, Ata and her c h i l d r e n move to Amsterdam. Ed van der Elsken and

Ata Kando divorce later the same year. 1956

Ed v a n der Elsken has an i n t e r n a t i o n a l breakthrough w i t h Een liefdesgeschiedenis in

Saint-Germain-des-PrĂŠs

(Love on the Left Bank).

1957

25 September: Ed v a n der Elsken and Gerda v a n der Veen marry.

1958

He receives various distinctions for his photobook Bagara.

1959-60

Ed and Gerda make a trip around the w o r l d .

1 9 6 1 Their daughter Tinelou is born, f o l l o w e d in 1963 by their son Daan Dorus. 1967-1982

Ed travels w o r l d w i d e for the magazine Avenue.

1 9 7 1 Together with his wife Gerda he makes the film De verliefde camera (The Infatuated Camera). For this self-portrait. Van der Elsken receives the Dutch National Prize for Film. During this time Ed and Gerda begin to split up. Van der Elsken moves into a farm in the polder near Edam. 1973

Anneke Hilhorst moves in with Ed v a n der Elsken. They work together on a d i a p o s i t i v e -

sound series and Super-8 films. 1979

Their son Johnny Cowboy is born.

1984

March 9: Ed and Anneke marry.

1988

December 2: Ed van der Elsken is the first photographer to receive the David Roell Prize

for his whole oeuvre. Van der Elsken learns that he has incurable cancer, and decides to make a video f i l m of his last life-adventure: Bye. The f i l m is selected as the best documentary of 1990 by the combined Dutch broadcasting networks. 1990

In March he receives the Capi-Lux Jubilee Prize. Ed van der Elsken dies on December 28.

He is buried at the Grote Kerk in Edam in January, 1991.


E X H I B I T I O N

LEVE IK!

( L O N G LIVE

ME!)

FUNDING

The e x h i b i t i o n w a s made p o s s i b l e w i t h the s u p p o r t of the MONDRIAAN

FOUNDATION

for the a d v a n c e m e n t of the v i s u a l arts, d e s i g n and m u s e u m s , A m s t e r d a m Stichting DE

GIJSEIAAR-HINTZENFONOS

Haarlem NOB, H i l v e r s u m P r i n t - i T A d v i e s BV, A l m e r e Citroen N e d e r l a n d B V . A m s t e r d a m CONCEPT

EXHIBITION

A n n e k e v a n der E l s k e n - H i l h o r s t F l i p Bool ( N e d e r l a n d s F o t o a r c h i e f ) Ruud Visschedijk (Nederlands Filmmuseum) REALIZATION

EXHIBITION

A n n e k e van der E l s k e n - H i l h o r s t Jeroen de V r i e s Bas V r o e g e FILM

SELECTION

EXHIBITION

Han H o g e l a n d Ruud V i s s c h e d i j k Bas V r o e g e RESEARCH

M a r i j e v a n de B e r g h Eline v a n der P l o e g M i r e i l l e de Putter EXHIBITION

TOUR

P A R A D O X THE

EXHIBITION

TRAVELLED

TO

Institut N ĂŠ e r l a n d a i s , P a r i s (1996) A m s t e r d a m s H i s t o r i s c h M u s e u m (1997) and other i n s t i t u t i o n s VIDEO

TAPE

As supplement to this publication, a VHS video tape with selected film fragments is available from ARCANA

PO Box 41082, 9701 CB Groningen The Netherlands Fax +31(0)50 5492066 CREDITS

Paradox wishes to thank all who have contibruted to this publication and the exhibition it accompanies, but in particular Anneke van der Elsken-Hilhorst, Warder Nederlands Fotoarchief, Rotterdam Nederlands Filmmuseum, Amsterdam


' S c u m b a g s , creeps, t r o u b l e m a k e r s , outsiders, dropouts, rebels, m i s f i t s , jerks, s l e a z e , a s s - k i s s e r s , yobs, h i p p i e s , b e a t n i k s , g r e a s e r s , r o c k e r s . A n g e l s , s k i n h e a d s ,

punks,

dope s m o k e r s , j u n k i e s , p i l l h e a d s , v a n d a l s . To one, t h e s e are t e r m s of a b u s e ; for another, titles of honour. Are they w o r t h l e s s , i r r i t a t i n g g o o d - f o r - n o t h i n g s , p a r a s i t e s , chaff, scum? Or are they the salt in the p o r r i d g e of the n a t i o n ? ' (From: Jong

Nederland.

1987)

E D V A N D E R E L S K E N ( 1 9 2 5 - 1 9 9 0 ) w a s a u n i q u e f i g u r e . He w a s one of the top i n t e r n a t i o n a l f i g u r e s in his g e n r e , street p h o t o g r a p h y . S t i l l , w i t h the e x c e p t i o n of Japan, w h e r e he e n j o y s c o n s i d e r a b l e fame, he has yet to make a b r e a k t h r o u g h o u t side The N e t h e r l a n d s . In 1997, Documenta

^ p r e s e n t e d his w o r k a l o n g s i d e s e v e r a l

great p h o t o g r a p h e r s of street life: Garrg W i n o g r a n d , W a l k e r Evans, Helen Levitt.

He w a s one of t h o s e who d e f i n e d the photo book as a m e d i u m . D u r i n g his life he p u b l i s h e d t w e n t y , of w h i c h s e v e r a l , i n c l u d i n g Love Sweet

on the Left Bank

( 1 9 5 6 ) and

Life ( 1 9 6 6 ) can be c a l l e d c l a s s i c s .

He is much less k n o w n for his f i l m s than for his photos. This has a lot to do w i t h the i d i o s y n c r a t i c w a y in w h i c h he h a n d l e d the m e d i u m : he a d o p t e d the v i s u a l l a n g u a g e of cinéma

vérité.

but not the t h e m e s . These r e m a i n e d u n e q u i v o c a l l y l i n k e d to his

o w n life, r e g a r d l e s s of w h e r e he w a s : in the p o l d e r n e a r his home in Edam, i n the b u s h of Central A f r i c a or in the streets of A m s t e r d a m or T o k y o . LONG

LIVE

ME

i n v e s t i g a t e s the r e l a t i o n b e t w e e n Van der E l s k e n ' s

handling photographg

w a y s of

and f i l m in a n u m b e r of a r t i c l e s , v a r y i n g f r o m the f i r s t

c o m p r e h e n s i v e s t u d y of his c o m p l e t e f i l m o e u v r e by the G e r m a n / A m e r i c a n f i l m h i s t o r i a n J a n - C h r i s t o p h e r Horak, to a p e r s o n a l e s s a y f r o m his f r i e n d and c o l l e a g u e f i l m m a k e r / p h o t o g r a p h e r Johan v a n der K e u k e n . The book also c o n t a i n s a complete f i l m o g r a p h y . ISBN

90-802655-3-5


http://www.paradox.nl/smartlook/tokyosymphony/LIVE-ME