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.

<span class="title">Matt Portrait<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2002</span>
<span class="title">Harrie Portrait<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2001</span>
<span class="title">Renee Portrait<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2001</span>
<span class="title">Thomas Portrait<span class="title_comma">, </span></span><span class="year">2001</span>
Erwin Olaf
Matt Portrait, 2002
Chromogenic print
39 3/8 x 29 1/2 in.
Edition of 10
© Erwin Olaf

The ‘Paradise’ series was taken as an ode to Amsterdam’s most renowned nightclub Club Paradiso. The shoot took place at the club’s New Year’s Eve party in 2000 which was circus themed. In these celebratory and extravagant images, Olaf chose to play along with the fantasy that comes from a night of festivities and photograph different sections of the club. 


The portraits feature close-up shots of individual night club goers. By focusing solely on their faces, Olaf manages to break the illusion of indulgence and mystique that features in the series. The individuals’ facial expressions range from exaggerated smiles to screams, with sweaty or tearful faces and sometimes consternation. In displaying the aftermath of the wild night, Olaf simultaneously breaks and creates the illusion of joy and exhilaration, leading the onlooker to question what is real and what is not.