In celebration of Erwin Olaf’s 60thyear and long collaboration with the gallery, Hamiltons presented photographs of women from across Olaf’s career. Hamiltons Gallery owner Tim Jefferies selected these works from Olaf’s oeuvre of 40 years, comprising photographs from Chessmen (1987-88), Squares (1983-2018), Blacks (1990), Mature (1999), Fashion Victims (2000), Royal Blood (2000), Hope (2005), Grief (2007), Hotel (2010), Keyhole (2011-13), Vogue (2012), Berlin (2012), Jewish (2013), Waiting (2014), Catwalk (2015), Skin Deep (2015), Shanghai (2017) and Palm Springs (2018), and so encompassing women of all ages, skin tones, body shapes and attitudes. Olaf believes that he can photograph women with more clarity than men, as without distractions he can be more precise in expressing his feelings. “With female talents I can be fairly critical and say exactly what I want them to do, whereas beautiful boys can throw stardust in my eyes… It is very inspiring to work with the sensitivity of women – I love the emotion that is layered under the skin and in the eyes and it is one of my joys to work with women in this way... They are my muses in my work.” (Erwin Olaf, 2019).
A selection of the works in the exhibition were vintage prints and had never been shown in a gallery setting before, others were journalistic images, and early pictures comprising some of the first photographs Olaf took in his studio. Beyond this, the exhibition revealed turning points in Olaf’s work when he began to shoot in colour, adopt carbon printing and explore new themes. Olaf emerged on to the international art scene in 1988 when he was awarded first prize in the Young European Photographer competition, closely followed by an award at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany. In his early work, Olaf addressed subjects such as race, class, sexuality and beliefs, defining his own subjects and exploring these in black and white (Chessmen, Squares andBlacks) and in colour (Rain, Hope Grief, Dusk andDawn). In more recent years he has been creating images that resemble paintings or cinematic scenes, adopting the role of director as well as photographer. Berlin, Shanghai andPalm Springs, a three-part project, looks at renowned cities undergoing seismic change in the modern world.