Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf remains 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.

‘Skin Deep’ 2009 features models of different backgrounds, race, sex and personality, chosen by Olaf for their confidence and relaxed attitude towards their bodies; he set them against the backdrop of an 18th century mansion in Holland. Olaf photographed the mansion walls in their original state just a day before they were to be restored; he then reprinted the walls in his studio, to become the environment for his models. 


The purpose of ‘Skin Deep’ is not to shock; on the contrary, the images, while direct and honest, are intended to reveal the human body in a “soft, unintimidating way”. The nude body is a classical and traditional theme that has been a cornerstone of art history and Skin Deep explores this theme with fresh intent: Olaf wishes us to perceive more clearly our contemporary notions of skin and sensation, of beauty and the body, without prejudice. These images stand as his refutation of the overwhelming saturation of sex and desire inherent in our modern mass-market, mass-media society.