Amsterdam! by Ed van der Elsken

Since the 6th of June the beautiful exhibition ‘Amsterdam! Ed van der Elsken, oude foto’s 1947-1970’ is running in Het Stadsarchief Amsterdam, the museum attached to the Municipal Archive of Amsterdam. The exhibition coincides with the reprint of the book of the beautiful series which originally was published in 1979. At that time it was a powerful collaboration between the great and famous photographer and the just as great graphic designer Anthon Beeke, making it rather a classic made out of Dutch excellence, which over the last decades had been out of print and sought after. At the time of the original release, the two greats created a new kind of visual communication, which gained them a lot of praise, showing the city of Amsterdam in the course of those decades in all its diversity to a worldwide audience.

The reprint of the book is a initiative by former-hiphop label turned all-round cultural endeavor Top Notch, together with Lecturis and the publisher Bas Lubberhuizen. Top Notch was founded 1995 by Kees de Koning, as the first Dutch music label with a clear focus on hip hop, but in the course of the last few years it has stretched its initiatives significantly, with as a observable common divisor (whether modern or historical) Dutch cultural heritage. For the reprint of the book more than 300 of the original Ed van der Elsen-shot negatives were digitally scanned and edited. The design of the book was done, like the original, by the Anthon Beeke collective mimicking the design of the first edition of the book.

With the renewed attention for the photographs and the people portrayed, new fascinating stories still reach the Municipal Archive. One of them is the story of one of the more famous photographs out of the series, ‘The Girl with the Candy Floss Hair.’

Van der Elsken dated the photograph twice, 1956 and 1963, but the slightly recognizable Merced Benz W111 was only produced between 1959 and 1968, which makes the second date more plausible. Also the mopet one sees on the photograph after close studying were only seen more often on the streets on Amsterdam since 1963, as before one could only illegally import them from Belgium.

Finally, through the recent release of the book, the husband of the girl, named  Margriet Swart sought contact with the museum. He first saw the image of his wife 10 years earlier when the photographs were being exhibited in the Amsterdam Museum. His wife had been dead for 6 years already though, making it both a joyful and sad experience for the man. In the end he helped dating the photograph to 1963, next to filling in one of the numerous stories that lay behind the photographs of the beautiful book and exhibition ‘Amsterdam! Ed van der Elsken, oude foto’s 1947-1970.’

Het Stadsarchief Amsterdam is located at the Vijzelstraat 32, Amsterdam and is opened Tuesday until Friday 10:00 – 17:00, and in the weekends from 12:00 – 17:00.
The exhibition runs until the 14th of September.

The book is available in English here.

For more information see here