Erling Mandelmann was born in 1935 in Copenhagen, Denmark. After receiving a commercial education, he took up photography at the age of 23. Self-taught at first, he took an 18-month course from a well known photographer in Copenhagen. Then, in 1963 he travelled to Switzerland to join an advanced photography course at the arts and trades school in Vevey. He settled in Switzerland, where he devoted himself to photojournalism, contributing to weeklies and magazines published in and outside Switzerland, while covering many assignments for UN-dependent international organisations, especially the World Health Organisation. Furthermore he did volunteer photographic work for various social or human projects such as ATD-Quart Monde, Caritas and Amnesty International and the Fulton project in Denmark. Since he was also drawn to architecture, he contributed to specialised international magazines. In parallel with his freelance activity, Erling Mandelmann shot a great many photo essays for the Berlitz travel guides, and worked as a photographer for the Swiss weekly magazine published by the Migros cooperative chain. For more than forty years, reporter-photographer Erling Mandelmann followed the red thread of portraiture, which he was particularly fond of. His archives contain a very large number of public figures, among which are Albert Jeanneret, Ernest Ansermet, Nikita Magaloff, Maurice Béjart, Benno Besson, Jacques Chessex, Marcel Marceau, Hugo Pratt, Jean Tinguely, Mark Tobey, Peter Ustinov, Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin.
In 2010, Erling Mandelmann offered all his portraits to Wikipedia (about 600).
His archives are now on deposit in the Historical Museum of Lausanne (Musée Historique de Lausanne).