There is a balanced symbiosis of stylistic excellence, and intricacy seen in the works of Erwin Olaf, a photographer who aims to seek frequently, the ultimate expression of photography which reflects his drive, intention, ambition and then leaves the viewer to perceive it in whichever way they can.
Erwin Olaf was born on 2nd June 1959 in the Netherlands. In 1981, he was given the award in the Young European Photographer competition for Chessmen: An Attempt to Play the Game, his series. This award proved to be a doorway for his success in photography. This was followed by a retrospective of his work in Cologne, Germany at the Ludwig Museum.
His area of expertise is fashion photography, for which he is internationally known. A number of his photographs break a certain taboo, they show matters that receive a sense of shock from the audience. Pictures taken by him represent a strong sense of aesthetics and orchestration. The photographs deliver messages and ambiance that are symbolized by the juxtaposition of hostility and exquisiteness, wittiness and eroticism, realism and phantasm. Olaf’s photography questions the predetermined judgments and postulation about life as a whole and regarding other peoples’ lives. His work confronts the world with the dissonance of common principles and customs of a society.
Moving on, Olaf has also made electronic visuals since 1991 for a variety of Dutch TV channels. He has produced music video and short films. He has also focused on independent installations and videos dodging with traditional cinema, television, art and fashion.
Over the years, technology has advanced, making work much more exciting for artists and photographers. Erwin Olaf has acknowledge that the introduction of digital camera and Photoshop has highly assisted him in taking his photography skills to a whole new level. In a time of 20 years, these two revolutions have completely transformed visual expression.
Olaf studied the human form in much detail through photography and was influenced by Joel-Peter Witkin and Robert Mapplethorpe. Olaf is fascinated by the shapes and lengths of human body – he is also attracted to the fact that everybody is different in appearance and strength. While being engrossed with bodies, Olaf has also shown interest in “skin”. The youthfulness of skin and its aging is riveting for him. As much as there is concern and trepidation about transformation of skin as people age, there is also an excitement about the beauty of youthful skin.
Apart from this, Erwin Olaf is also well-known for his advertising photography. He has received commissions for doing commercial photography for campaigns involving internationally recognized brands, including Nokia, Microsoft and Levi’s.
There are some series produced by Olaf that have received worldwide popularity: Royal Blood, Rain, and Grief. His work is audacious and confident with a poignant and theatrical impact. His work envisages all that is overlooked, resisted and tacit. He flamboyantly captures the epitome of modern life through the expert use of lighting and setting, as well as the perfection in compositions.
Erwin Olaf has received several international prizes concerning the fields of media and art, like Photographer of the Year at the International Colour Awards, 2006; and Netherland’s Artist of the Year by Kunstbeeld magazine, 2007. In addition to this, he has done many solo and group exhibitions around the world, including Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris; George Eastman House in Rochester in USA; and several more.