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.

Olaf’s ‘Hotel’ series features single models posing with different reactions to their solitude. They linger in replica hotel guest rooms, surrounded by subtle differences which hint at the reason for or reaction to their isolation such as a discarded shoe or a lit message on an answer phone.


Olaf’s highly theatrical mise-en-scenes recall the early ’60s, underscored by a diluted colour palette. Influenced also by his own travels and accompanying feelings of transience and anomie, Olaf’s models gaze into the distance and evoke an uneasy, disconnected sense of mystery. Their cinematic nature reflects Olaf’s evolution as an artist, leaning towards more complex narrative. 


“The older I get, the more I start to realise that I am more influenced by cinema than by photography. Although there are big beautiful photographs - when you are going to the cinema, you can always make up your own story. You have more emotion. I never cry over a photo, but I cry over a movie, or music or literature. That makes me a bit jealous, so I want to achieve that in my photography.”- Erwin Olaf.