Street photography - A quick comparison between different photogaphers, continuing with Ed van der Elsken

Last year I bought a book 'Hallo!' from the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken (1925 - 1990). Ed van der Elsken has travelled all around the world photographing people in the streets and public places. The book 'Hallo!' is a collection of some of these images. What is special about the book is that with the way the images are arranged, visual connections between the subjects in the images are made that otherwise would not be connected at all.

Because of these connections, the viewer gets an insight in the way the photographer sees things and what he marks as special. On this page you can see a few examples. Sometimes it's the movement a person makes or a striking resemblance of patterns or shapes that he has seen elsewhere. Compared to Meyerowitz, Van der Elsken is looking for a reaction, sometimes from the subject photographed, but mostly from its viewers. He is purposely taking a position, showing the extremes of society, or the things that stand out. He makes fun of people considered as normal and normalises the extremes of society through making connections that otherwise would not be obvious. 

I look at his book and burst out laughing all the time. I wouldn't call Van der Elsken critical, but more a person who is looking at life and seeing the things that make it exciting, provocative and funny. Van der Elsken has a very sympathetic world view and it's obvious that he is able to connect with all different people, but still stay true to his ability to find the wacky things in either weird or plain places.

Thinking about what I can learn from this way of working I come to the conclusion that first of all, do photograph everything that you find visually stimulating. Looking back at my own work, I will discover the elements that connect it all together, whether photographed in Amsterdam, New Delhi or Dakar. Secondly, what I photograph is a reflection of my own character and I shouldn't be shy about what I'm drawn to or what I find stimulating. I like Van der Elsken's open mindedness, with all its wittiness and curiosity. He certainly stayed true to himself.