His imagery provides quotidian, intimate and autobiographic perspectives on the European zeitgeist spanning the period of the Second World War into the nineteen-seventies in the realms of love, sex, art, jazz, and alternative culture. He described his camera as 'infatuated', and said: "I'm not a journalist, an objective reporter, I'm a man with likes and dislikes".
His groundbreaking 'photo-novel', Love on the Left Bank, appeared in 1956 it was an instant success. In the book he tells the story of his ramblings in Paris, where he lived for a number of years. He had pasted up the dummy of the book by hand, devising a tragic love story from the gritty photographs he had taken in Paris of the disaffected youth of the period after the war.
Ed van der Elsken, self portrait Anneke, Edam, 1973
Ed van der Elsken, Ata Kando and her children, Paris, 1950's
Ed van der Elsken,, from Love on the Left Bank, published in 1956