Ed van der Elsken was born in Amsterdam in 1925. He lived and worked in Paris from 1950 to 1954. He moved back to Amsterdam and lived there from 1954 to 1971. He traveled a lot for his work, for instance to Bagara, Central Africa in 1957, and made a long world trip in 1959 and 1960 with Gerda van der Veen, his second wife. From 1971, he lived in the country near Edam. In this period, he often traveled to Japan and also worked in Amsterdam. In 1988 he is diagnosed with cancer. He died in 1990.
Ed van der Elsken was one of the most influential figures in postwar Dutch photography. He captured every aspect of Amsterdam from the 1950s on. Working primarily with natural light, his objective was to show things as they are, without disrupting any integrity or mainstreaming his subjects. His openness to accident and the unexpected is indicative of the artist's lust for life and lends empathy to the strange and tender encounters captured. The quixotic technique often resulted in textures ranging from hard grains to soft blurs, playing upon the pictures' surface in a manner that elevated the atmosphere beyond the confines of its factual content. The unconventional technique and the gritty snapshot-like quality of Van der Elsken's work have been of great importance in the development of contemporary photography.