Erwin Olaf‘s art visualizes implicitly the unspoken, the overlooked, that typically resist easy documentation. Olaf’s trademark is to address social issues, taboos, and bourgeois conventions in a highly stylized and cunning mode of image making. With his razor-sharp aesthetic intuition, Olaf purposely conceals his themes, so that the viewer has to accept the initial concealment in Olaf’s photo series. Yet in the end, his unconventional style never misses to deliver dramatic visual and emotional impact. By taking care of the scenic and lightning design, and the utmost perfect composition in his typical, immaculate ‘Olafian’ way, together with his passion for flawlessly conceiving scenarios, Olaf vividly captures the essence of contemporary life.

FashionVictims – Chanel

FashionVictims – Gucci

FashionVictims – CalvinKlein

FashionVictims – Moschino

Mixing photojournalism with studio photography, Olaf emerged on the international art scene in 1988, when his series Chessmen was awarded the first prize in the Young European Photographer competition. Deliberately disturbing and intended to raise awareness, Olaf committed himself in his earlier work on the subject of social exclusion in which he explored issues of class, race, sexual taste, beliefs, habits and grace.

Paradise The Club – Backstage

Paradise The Club -  Darkroom

Paradise The Club – DressingRoom

Paradise The Club – VIP Lounge

Erwin Olaf is a photographer who’s well known for his visually sophisticated and conceptually provocative style. In his work Olaf shows how culture can become repression, despite a beautiful appearance and at the same time he explores the subtle range of detached melancholic emotions.

Paradise Portraits – Matt

Paradise Portraits – Renee

Paradise Portraits – Roy

Paradise Portraits – Tabara

Bodyparts – Desire

Bodyparts – Pull

Bodyparts – DoublePortrait

Bodyparts – DickHead


The Johannes Vermeer Award, Netherlands’ state prize for the arts,  has been awarded to Erwin Olaf, for the continuous high quality of his oeuvre.


Erwin Olaf


Born in 1959 in Hilversum (the Netherlands), Erwin Olaf lives in Amsterdam (the Netherlands). In 1991 he began working with film which has since continued to be an important medium for his art. Often these movies provide a parallel history to his color photography. Olaf’s visually sophisticated and conceptually provocative style has been embraced by the advertising world. His worldwide campaigns for Diesel Jeans and Heineken won him the coveted Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions Festival for Advertising. In 2010 Louis Vuitton commissioned Olaf for a portrait series in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. He also won numerous other international art and media prizes, such as Photographer of the Year in the International Colour Awards in 2006, and Kunstbeeld magazine’s Artist of the Year of the Netherlands in 2007. Recently he received a Lucie Award for his entire oeuvre. Recent monographs are ‘Erwin Olaf’, Aperture Foundation, New York, (2008) and Vite Private, Contrasto, Milan (2010).  Erwin Olaf has had numerous important group and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including George Eastman House, Rochester, USA; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Chelsea Art Museum and others.


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