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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Erwin Olaf

Artist Spotlight: Erwin Olaf

Erwin-olaf-i-am-self-portrait-x400

Olaf's work combines rigorous discipline with an eye for the spontaneous moment.

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If you are a lover of interesting photography, you have most likely been seeing Erwin Olaf's images for a few decades now. His lively combination of photojournalism and meticulous studio setups has had success in museums and galleries, and he has created advertising campaigns for luxury brands. His work is by turns haunting, confrontational, controversial, and saturated in atmosphere.

Many of Olaf's works test boundaries of appropriateness and verge on pornographic. Here he intersects with contemporary Robert Mapplethorpe, especially in Olaf's Composition of Two Women, 1985, from the series "Squares," seen further into this portfolio. But Olaf jests with the viewer in a relaxed way that Mapplethorpe would not have, yet he has made an iconic image that lasts in the viewer's memory.

Leading this portfolio is the very familiar photo of a young man with his exploding champagne bottle -- one of the most appropriated images ever in gay media (and that was before the Internet). So let us now give credit where credit is due.

Erwin Olaf (born in Hilversum, the Netherlands, 1959) is a Dutch photographer known for his highly stylized, daring, and often provocative work addressing social issues and taboos. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Johannes Vermeer Award (2011), a Lucie Award (2008), and Photographer of the Year in the International Color Awards (2006). Olaf also received a commission to design the new national side of the Dutch Euro, launched in 2013.

Erwin Olaf's website.

Black-and-white photos from the exhibition "Erwin Olaf B&W. Early Works" at Espacio Minimo Gallery, Madrid, running until January 17.

Color photos from the book Erwin Olaf: Volume II (Aperture, 2014)

Erwin-olaf-01_0Joy, 1985
See more of Olaf's images on the following pages>>>


Erwin-olaf-02_0High Heels, 1990

Erwin-olaf-03_0Pearls, 1986

Erwin-olaf-04_0Olger, 1986


Erwin-olaf-05_0Ronald, 1986

Erwin-olaf-06_0Herman, 1986

Erwin-olaf-08_0Cum, 1985

Erwin-olaf-09_0Composition of Two Women, 1985


Erwin-olaf-10_0Berlin, Portrait 01, April 22, 2012

Erwin-olaf-11_0Dusk, the Mother, 2009

Erwin-olaf-12_0Berlin, Portrait 22, July 10, 2012


Erwin-olaf-13_0Felix, 2008

Erwin-olaf-14_0Berlin, Portrait 05, July 9, 2012

Erwin-olaf-15_0Paris, Room 1134, 2010


Erwin-olaf-16_0Berlin, Olympic Stadium, Westend, Self-Portrait, April 25, 2012

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Christopher Harrity

Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.
Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.