Erwin Olaf

ISBN 13: 9781597110617

Erwin Olaf

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“Vermeer Noir” might be an apt description of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf’s disquieting image repertoire. His subjects are posed indoors, immobile, somewhat in reverie and bathed in nearby window light--but not tranquilly so. An atmosphere of sinister but clinical indifference attends both them and their environments, rendering them into beautiful but dislocated mannequins in catalogue-furnished interiors. All sense of belonging to a place is eliminated. Each richly colored and sleekly composed image offers a sly reinterpretation of Norman Rockwell-like iconography and characters, manifesting a nostalgia that both burlesques and celebrates America of the 1950s and 60s. Dramatic emotions are hinted at but left ambiguous; certainly nothing in the models’ surroundings suggests a cause. Here, across three themes of Hope, Grief and Rain, Olaf blends mid-century Modern and Noir in the lens of contemporary fashion. Avocado greens, golden-hued oranges and subtle lilacs brighten and deaden simultaneously, sending an irresolvable tension through his scenarios like an electric current. This tension, strung between the polar effects of zing and muteness, is the line Olaf treads in his pictures. As a whole, the work defines what critic Jonathan Turner usefully describes as “Olaf’s recent fascination with the visual representation of such emotions as loss, loneliness and quiet despair... [He] plays games with the idea of cold reality versus cruel artifice, capturing that precise moment when innocence, hope and joy are lost.” The book comes with a DVD.

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About the Author:

Erwin Olaf was born in Hilversum, Holland, in 1959. As a commerical photographer, he has created campaigns for Nicorette, Nokia, Diesel, Microsoft, Heineken and Audi. His artwork has most recently been exhibited in a solo show at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, and was published in a monograph titled Joy. He currently lives in Amsterdam."

Review:

"There is a bit of Mad Men, a touch of Norman Rockwell and even a little John Waters in Dutch photograher Olaf's work. His charged narrative scenarios - desolate women, brooding boxers - are portrayed in lush photographs in this sumptuous fabric-bound volume." -- Naomi West --Harper's Bazaar

"The people in his images seem to be caught while standing on an emotional precipice--stuck in the moment before they must react to a crisis... The images are seductive and mysterious, inviting us to fill in the awkward spaces and moments of silence with our own narrative." -- Lindsay Sakraida --American Photo

"Good-looking enough for a magazine spread and cinematic enough for a movie... these photographs are love letters to the aesthetics of the early 1960s - all bouffant hair, demure tones, bakelite and nylon. The stereotypes are all here too - the housewife, the school girl... trapped in perfect but sterile lives and looking thoroughly nonplussed with their lot. As a result, Olaf's scenes are taut with tension - his characters teetering on a knife edge between composure and collapse." -- Holly Kyte --The Week

"The methodically detailed worlds created by Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf are muted melodramas, inhabited by mannequin-like creatures in immaculate settings... The ultra-stylized individuals convey issues of beauty, loneliness and despair through a breathless meditation of tone and shape." -- Gordon Gee --Tokion Magazine

"Erwin Olaf's work inhabits a twilight world often tempered with an unnerving stillness as his subjects appear frozen in time before the shutter clicks, as if it is recording the strangeness rather than driving it... Olaf's ability to construct multiple narratives within each scene takes the eyes around each space to observe details within. I implore you to admire the beauty of his aesthetic and suggest that you linger on the elements within each image at leisure." -- Laura Noble -- London Independent Photography

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