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.

<span class="title">A Streetcar Named Desire<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2009</span>
<span class="title">Cyrano<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2009</span>
<span class="title">Sunshine Boys<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2009</span>
<span class="title">Three Sisters<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2009</span>
<span class="title">Virginia Wolf<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2009</span>
Erwin Olaf
A Streetcar Named Desire, 2009
Chromogenic print
35 3/8 x 50 1/8 in.
Edition of 15
© Erwin Olaf

Olaf’s highly theatrical mise-en-scenes recall the early ’60s, underscored by a diluted colour palette. He seeks inspiration from this period of major social changes, the rise of feminism, a prospering middle-class, globalisation and the haunting influence of television in nouveau-riche American households.


In 2009, Olaf was commissioned by the grand DeLaMar Theatre in Amsterdam to create a series featuring classic and 20th Century plays from ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ to ‘The Sunshine Boys’. The series was to hang on the walls throughout the theatre and to celebrate its reopening. 


Olaf made eight stills of reimagined stage productions of the chosen plays, using real actors and comedians as models. The surreal and playful images are packed with drama, comedy, dance and music. With meticulous lighting and careful compositions, the pictures emulate the experience of going to the theatre.