The works of the Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf are regarded as provocative and daring and are controversially discussed by the media, art galleries and museums. Most of the time Erwin Olaf works in photographic series that include ten or more photographies, sometimes video footage or bigger installations. Each series covers a specific topic, in which Olaf tries to visualize the unspeakable and the unnoticed, which eludes straightforward documentation. In his cleverly staged visual worlds the photographer draws attention to taboos, social conflicts and the narrowness of middle-class mind-set. His series Homage to Berlin (2012) is a perfect example for his work. In about 20 photographs taken outside the studio at historical locations in Berlin, Olaf deals with the time between the First and the Second World War.
In his series Rain (2004), Hope (2005), Grief (2007) and Fall (2008), Olaf questions the ideal of domestic happiness and middle-class lifestyle. In Hotel (2010) he examines stages of melancholy in exquisitely furnished and dimly lit hotel rooms of the 1950s. In his series Keyhole (2012) Olaf deals with the voyeuristic view on scenes of intimacy. In Waiting (2014) Erwin Olaf asks about the phenomenon of the perception of time. In several photographies of historical and contemporary garments the series Catwalk (2016) presents the changes of Dutch fashion from 1625 to 1960. In the three-part series Palms Spring (2018) Erwin Olaf depicts the USA as a country that has passed its Golden Years and that is overwhelmed by its contradictions.
After finishing school Erwin Olaf (*1959, Hilversum) studied journalism at the School of Journalism in Utrecht and began his career as a photojournalist, documenting the nightlife of the 1980s. In 1988 Olaf won the first Young European Photographer prize for his series, a fusion of photojournalism and classical studio photography that founded his style. This award was followed by an exhibition at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne in the same year. As a photographer, he worked on advertising campaigns for international companies such as Levi's, Microsoft and Nokia. Today he lives and works in Amsterdam.