Emmy Andriesse was born in The Hague to a family of liberal Dutch Jews. When she was 15, her mother died, and because her father traveled continuously for his work, she was raised by several aunts. After graduating from high school, she studied advertising design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. There she took an experimental class and learned photography and its use in posters, advertising, and newspapers. During this time, she lived in a community center in Voorburg whose residents had contact with different progressive and anti-fascist organizations. Upon completing her training in 1937, she became a professional photographer in Amsterdam and specialized in the emerging genre of social documentary photography. In 1941, she married Dick Elffers, a graphic designer and artist with whom she would have two sons, one of whom died young. With the German invasion of The Netherlands in World War II, Emmy was forced to stop working and go into hiding. At the end of 1944, with the help of anthropologist Arie de Froe, she obtained false identity papers and ventured back out into public life, joining a group of photographers working clandestinely as De Ondergedoken Camera. She took photos documenting the terrible famine, suffering, and misery of the Occupation during the "hunger winter" of 1944-1945. After the war, she turned to fashion photography as well as portraits, arts-based imagery, cityscapes, and landscapes. Her work appeared in Edward Steichen's 1951 book The Family of Man. She is now recognized as one of the most important photographers of the 20th century. Her last commission, The World of Van Gogh (1953) was published posthumously after she died from cancer at the age of 39.