Tokyo Symphony is an audiovisual installation that photographer Ed van der Elsken never completed during his lifetime. The photographs that Van der Elsken produced explicitly for this installation form a strong and colourful portfolio covering various aspects of life and culture in Tokyo and his love for and fascination with Japan. Tokyo Symphony is part of the retrospective on Van der Elsken at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (on show from 4 February).

Van der Elsken did not hold back when it came to making his visual language an expression of his state of mind – on the contrary, it was concept and essential for him to express his personal perspective and state of mind with the help of his motives. He found the majority of his subjects in the working-class neighbourhoods of large cosmopolitan cities: Paris, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

In the last years of his life Ed van der Elsken worked on what should have been his audiovisual magnum opus: Tokyo Symphony. The installation was meant to be his homage to Japan – a land that had embraced him personally as well as as a photographer and author. The installation was never finished due to his early death in 1990. It was thought that the collection of 1,600 images was all that remained of this ambitious project. In 2007, researcher Frank Ortmanns discovered five audiotapes belonging to the project at Van der Elskens home. Together with Paradox, he started with an ambitious project: to make an installation as if Van der Elsken were still alive. In 2010, Tokyo Symphony was on show at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam.

From 4 Feb – 21 May the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam presents the largest overview of the photographic and filmic work of Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990) in twenty five years: Camera in Love. The Stedelijk has followed Van der Elsken’s work since his career began in the 1950s. At the heart of the retrospective are over 200 iconic photos, in both black and white, and colour.

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