Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf is one of Holland’s most acclaimed contemporary photographers. Famous for his mis-en-scène and highly theatrical compositions, Olaf weaves complex and dramatic narratives into his still photographs. His work is frequently exhibited and included in numerous contemporary art and photography museums internationally.

Erwin Olaf's trilogy Hope, Grief, Rain centres on the suspended moment when an emotional reaction begins.

 

Grief for example focuses on the silently fought battle between gut-wrenching sorrow and socially constructed notions of dignity and poise. These staged narratives depict moments, described by Olaf, as an instant of indecision or consideration, the "half-second after you receive bad news but before you react." He encourages the observer to empathise with the fragile beauty of these characters and to unlock the connectedness we share with our fellow beings.

 

Rain appears to show the inaction of waiting for nothing; it's the moment after happiness.

 

Hope captures a frozen moment - one of expectation and longing - which allows the observer to wonder what the subjects are thinking about, or dreaming of.

 

Particularly influenced by the early 1960's, the décor, hairstyles, clothing and lighting make reference to this era and are further underscored by the diluted colour palette of avocado greens, subtle lilacs and oranges. Olaf was inspired by this period of social change, by the rise of feminism and the middle class, the seeming globalisation of the world and the pervasive influence of television. Olaf has a strong and haunting memory of the assassination of John F Kennedy, which he refers to in this series.

 

"When I make a body of work I want to do two things, to explore the medium of photography (lighting, colour palette and so on) and to discover whatever is on my mind at the time. To explore who I am and how I feel.", Erwin Olaf.