We no longer need to introduce Erwin Olaf (and yet, we are going to do it), one of the greatest contemporary photographers, a universal influence on the world of photography, a pioneer in the art world. Erwin Olaf is before anything a troublemaker, an agitator, taking the opposing view of the advertising and fashion diktats. An asserted and mastered style which will shake up taboos, provoking the art market, exciting advertisers and imposing itself as an alternative of the beauty ideal and of the contemporary aesthetic canons run by the press and the publicity. Beauty is shaken, counter culture takes the lead on fashion thanks to blunted and incisive tools, pornography, crude, derision. The mastery of the subject and the quality of the finish are complete, the staging is precise, intense ... Erwin Olaf has been living in Amsterdam since the beginning of the 80s where he is working in his studio, a place modelled on the character, set up in a former church hall.
After studying journalism in Utrecht, the Netherlands, he throws himself into fashion photography and advertising. In 1988, combining studio photography and photojournalism, he receives the first prize of the Young European Photographer competition and his carrier takes off. Progressively, he introduces colour and digital manipulation exploring at the same time new possibilities offered by the cinema and the video. After some noteworthy exhibitions, he develops business projects with renowned brands which he will criticise later in 2000 with his Fashion Victim series : nude models, sometimes with the virile member erected, sometimes with their legs opened, the face covered with bags bearing the logo and the names of great luxury brands. That same year, Erwin Olaf, stamped provocative photographer, gets his inspiration from his mad nights at the Paradiso, Amsterdam temple of rock and creates two series peopled with frightening clowns, Paradise the Club and Paradise Portraits, which will make him famous.
At the same time, Olaf is investing himself into more personal work: questions of classes, race, sexual orientation, beliefs ... After his series Hope, Grief, Fall, Dusk where Erwin evokes questions linked with the specificities of each sex, of sensuality, of humour, despair, and grace, he creates Hotel (2010) in which he explores the subtle range of emotions leaning to a melancholy trend in some hotel rooms reminding the 50s.
Over times, Erwin Olaf imposed himself as a cutting and intense photographer whose work, sometimes sources of controversy, have always been unanimously acclaimed by critics.