Erwin Olaf is a Dutch photographer and director, born on July 2, 1959, in Hilversum, Netherlands. He is well-known for his innovative and often provocative work in the field of photography. Olaf’s work spans various genres, including portrait, fashion, and advertising photography. Olaf’s work often features a strong element of storytelling, using cinematic techniques to create narrative-driven images. He is known for his meticulous attention to detail and his ability to convey complex emotions and stories within a single frame. Many of Olaf’s projects explore themes related to societal issues, human emotions, and the passage of time. His work can be both visually striking and thought-provoking, often challenging traditional norms.
As a storyteller, Erwin Olaf is a contemporary photographer whose work addresses most current concerns of the world – discrimination, gender, sexuality, taboo, climate change, reality, equality, power, racism, freedom of expression and democracy – through staged studio and outdoor photographs of incredible technical and visual skill.
The key to his work is the twist that he gives his cinematic, perfect worlds – the hidden crack in the facade, the unhinging of the link between reality and representation. These not so perfect worlds are often inspired by stories of the past, whether those stories may be present in the works of Vermeer, the still lives of the Dutch painters of the 16th and 17th century, Caravaggio, the Olympic Games of 1936, Norman Rockwell paintings, film noir, or clothes of the 1950s and 1960s.
Olaf let’s the viewer’s eye move without restraint across the terrain of the photographs, letting them soak up the atmosphere of his hyperreal tableau vivant. Both seductive and disturbing, his photographs challenge us to interrogate our own story – who are we, what do we really believe in, and what can we do to change prejudice and bigotry in a hostile world.
Quote: “What I want to show most of all is a perfect world with a crack in it. I want to make the picture seductive enough to draw people into the narrative, and then deal the blow.” Erwin Olaf
Erwin Olaf’s work has had a significant impact on the world of contemporary photography, and his innovative approach continues to influence and inspire artists in various disciplines. He died due to complications of a recent lung transplant. Erwin Olaf struggled for years with hereditary emphysema. He was 64.