Erwin Olaf Lines It Up for Indochine
Erwin Olaf’s expertise is building worlds that look just like ours, but are heightened, dramatic, surreal. But when he does his work, he builds those worlds so completely that they’re as present for us as our own. They’re unsettling, like the uncanny valley, drawing us in while forcing us to ache for our own world that’s already standing up around us. He usually brings this gift to fashion stories, but most recently he collaborated with French rock group Indochine for their album art, that exploded into an exploration of an entire colorguard troupe that implies even more.
The highly stylized images that feature a cadre of children dressed and styled impeccably are reminiscent of brutal regime propaganda while recalling childhood memories and stroking our hunger for visual perfection. The muted palate of the images comforts while the models’ posing and flag waving sends up red flags. It’s that tension that Erwin works so beautifully inside of and makes for such compelling images.
Check out the whole series of art for Indochine’s latest EP, and find the rest of Erwin's work in his portfolio.
Erwin Olaf Throws it to the Wolves for Kohler
One of the worst things you can do is throw someone to the wolves. Abandoning a compatriot to savage destruction by way of a canine’s canines is barbaric. But what if they feel at home amongst the wolves? What if they share their lair with these animals who accept them as one of their own? In Erwin Olaf’s latest campaign with Kohler he imagines the wolves’ lair coming home and being a part of an elegant interior. Erwin introduces these beasts as part of a sophisticated design who are as curious about the products as a shopper is, revealing a raw style.
Like so much of Erwin’s work, in this Kohler ad he plays off the contrast of expectations and conventions. The subject of the ad is standing in his bar resplendent in a royally colored tuxedo, decked out with jewels and perfectly coiffed, with a full crystalline glass of water in his hands. The door to his bar is open to the outside and has attracted the attention of a small pack of wolves whose curiosity has called them to explore. At once they seem both out of place and perfectly at home in this most graceful version of a man-cave. Erwin always works to create an interior visual tension that is supremely beautiful, and this ad with Kohler is no exception.
Humanity and Time Converge with Erwin Olaf and Ruinart
Deep in the caves of Reims, France, bottles of Ruinart champagne sit and wait for time to have its effect. We wait impatiently but are reminded season after season that the wait is worth it. Sugar turns to alcohol and carbon dioxide, creating an effervescent magic born to the dark. Each bottle will transforms into a delight as our lives pass by on the surface. It’s been happening below us for almost three hundred years, but every year since 1896 Ruinart invites an artist to create a piece of work inspired by the company. This year, Erwin Olaf was taken by the magic that lives inside those cellars. “Not only has nature left its traces, but also human beings,” says Erwin, describing what it was about the caves that arrested him so. Erwin reached back into his own history and filled his Hasselblad camera with black and white film, a habit from the 1980s. He toured the cellars and photographed what he found.
In many ways the result of this project, a large compendium filled with pages of Erwin’s discoveries, represents a departure from his traditional work. “I play with reality, creating lies” Erwin says, describing his typical process. But these images are naked representations of what lies below the surface, untouched and glowing. This is where the press of nature and the touch of humanity come together in a collaboration, creating something that neither can do on their own. It’s a reminder that time makes fools of us all.
Erwin Olaf Follows Time Through Fashion at The Rijksmuseum
Fashion happens now. It is a physical manifestation of how a culture or an artist wants to be seen in the world. Each season offers a new set of looks that become a calling card for that time, and while there are cycles and resurgences of styles, you can trace history through fashion. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is exploring Dutch history through fashion in their latest exhibition, “Catwalk,” with the stewardship of Erwin Olaf who designed the show. With pieces that date all the way back to 1625, the exhibition utilizes the museum’s incredible collection of Dutch fashions and offers an understanding of time and cultures gone by.
Erwin’s artistry has always explored expectations and the reality of pleasant society in work that is both rich and surprising. But the show at Rijksmuseum offered a completely new opportunity. “For several years now I've been exploring alternative ways to present my photographic work and to integrate it in installations, sound, video, and films as means to immerse viewers in a world that fires and challenges their personal imaginations and, ultimately, sparks a stimulating dialogue between the viewer and the work on view," he says. As each patron wanders around the six galleries that make up the show, they enter not only an exhaustive history lesson of Dutch fashion but also Erwin’s vision for how we should understand it. A dark skinned mannequin stands with her arms extended to her sides, wearing a Piet Mondrian inspired dress, facing an army of mannequins dressed in looks that predate the 1960s. In one simple set up, Erwin reminds us how linked our clothes are to the cultures that wear them. He shows us that one dress can recall a movement, and a turn in time.
In addition to designing the show, Erwin also shot a collection of photographs that pair with the exhibit, bringing his vision to life even more acutely. In these images, Erwin infuses the emotion and gesture that aren't possible with mannequins, bringing in a context that would otherwise prove impossible. It's a balance of the human element that only Erwin can offer.
To see Erwin in action at the museum, check out the Behind the Scenes video below.
Erwin Olaf: Skin Deep
Erwin Olaf’s latest personal project, Skin Deep, investigates our relationship with the human form, and more deeply, the human body.
The series exists in a world that is precious to Erwin, with backdrops made of imagery taken from a mansion in Holland, proving as transitory as the moments captured on film. Erwin has shot at the Dutch mansion many times before and for this project visited the day before it was to be completely redone, photographing what would become the set pieces for Skin Deep: the home’s interior would become the backgrounds, printed and rehung in his studio.
He chose to work with a collection of models that represented different races, sexes, and personalities all for the statement that he was making: that we need to take ownership of our bodies once more. As explained by the representing gallery, Hamiltons Gallery, the over exposure and sexualizing of the human body has reshaped the way we see the form as a commodity to be bought and sold. Erwin’s Skin Deep presents us with what has changed and gives up the opportunity to confront it in a new way. “After so many years constructing my own dream world, I wanted to go back to pure form,” Erwin explains. “This series is still part of my ideal world, but it is less constructed, and as a result, closer to the ideal of purity.” The reclining nudes tease sexuality but also show line, ripple, surface, and texture, with a stillness that implies statue. Erwin’s vision is for us to see these models as tangible things that own their own selves, as opposed to an ownable object.
You can check out Erwin Olaf’s Skin Deep at Hamiltons Gallery in London through November 14th.Erwin Olaf, Skin Deep, Female nude No. 04, 2015, © Studio Erwin OlafErwin Olaf, Skin Deep, Female nude No. 08, 2015, © Studio Erwin OlafErwin Olaf, Skin Deep, Male nude No. 01, 2015, © Studio Erwin OlafErwin Olaf, Skin Deep, Male nude No. 03, 2015, © Studio Erwin Olaf
Vogue Hangs Erwin Olaf's Photography with the Masters
The medium an artist chooses is as important to the work as any other element. The message that the artist is conveying will shift from form to form, and cannot fully be translated into any other. The strength from DaVinci’s David comes from inhabiting the same space as the viewer, where Diane Arbus’ work requires the immediacy and clarity of photography to display what she implored the world to see. But sometimes the lines between mediums get blurred and create a visual tension that tells a deeper story.
Vogue has put together a photographic exhibition of some of their favorite fashion photographers called “Like a painting” that will remain on display in Spain into October. The images chosen include work from Erwin Olaf as well as Irving Penn, Annie Leibovitz, and Peter Lindbegh, bridging the gap between photography and painting. When photography was created as a method of capturing violently short moments and then soon developed into the art of documenting the ephemeral, it was a step away from the time consuming art of painting that demanded true pause. Suddenly energy could be directly translated in a slice of a moment rather than an impression after hours. The images that are included in Vogue’s exhibition bring the same respect for time as a classic Botticelli with the clarity of the finest photography.
As a part of the offering Vogue explains their choices in part by saying, “There are direct references to iconic pieces of art history recalling from the Spanish Golden Age painting to Dutch Portraiture or Impressionism with a common denominator: an atmosphere in which time stops.” Erwin’s photograph, from his series “The Master & the Girl,” reminds us of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” but Erwin’s work does what a painting cannot. The life that is infused in this frozen moment reaches out from the frame and is so authentic it is almost jarring. Curator Debra Smith explains that each painting shows, “a timelessness in the model’s pose; a kind of gap in the mind, where everything is really, really still.”
Vogue's "Like a painting" is on view at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain through October 15.
B&A Talents Selected for AI-AP's American Photography 30
AI-AP flagged a group of Bernstein & Andriulli talents as American Photography 30 "Selected" winners.
The list includes: Jamie Chung's florals for Document Journal; Joe Pugliese's picture of musician Jack White for The Hollywood Reporter; Stephen Wilkes's haunting image of The Star Jet Roller Coaster, submerged in the Atlantic Ocean after falling from the Seaside Heights pier during Hurricane Sandy; Erwin Olaf's much-talked-about photo of model Ymre Stiekema for Vogue Netherlands; Chloe Aftel's "Agender," a portrait of the movement by the same name for San Francisco Magazine; and Robert Maxwell's black-and-white shot of future NBA star Andrew Wiggins for GQ. Michael Turek completes the B&A collection with a pair of images – a landscape of Verbier Ski Slopes in Switzerland for Condé Nast Traveller and a mountain gorilla chasing a Rwandan guide printed in Porter magazine.
Submissions by "Selected" winners appear online and in the AP30 book, to be released come November.
Erwin Olaf Studies 'Les Beaux Arts' for Vogue Netherlands
Erwin Olaf paid homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Karel Appel, and Jackson Pollock in the March issue of Vogue Netherlands. "The magazine wanted to do a series that involved modern art – it's a topic of the moment in Paris fashion – and I suggested working with Topolino, a fantastic makeup artist in France and a free spirit," Olaf explained.
He first shot the models as artists in their ateliers, and positioned lights behind the camera to create the impression of a shadowless painter's studio. "Ronja [Amanda Berg] really transformed more or less into Basquiat because of the styling," he noted. For the accompanying portraits, Topolino treated the models' faces as canvases, translating Basquiat's, Appel's, and Pollock's oeuvres into beauty looks. "Here, I used the sort of lighting one would encounter in a gallery – it's a bit more moody, but clear for displaying the makeup," Olaf said.
"I tried to avoid leaving the signature of a photographer," he added. "The viewer should focus on the artwork, as you have to do with fine art."
Styling: Marije Goekoop
Hair: Paolo Ferreira
Models: Elza Luijendijk, Ronja Amanda Berg, and Lieke van Houten
Erwin Olaf Designs King Willem-Alexander Euro
The Royal Dutch Mint welcomed King Willem-Alexander, Finance Minister Frans Weekers, and Erwin Olaf last week as it started production on euros designed by the B&A photographer.
Each coin features Olaf's portrait of the royal with added texture "based on the parceled Dutch landscape and also symbolizing the diversity of the population of our country at the present time," said the mint; its director Maarten Brouwer called the currency "a wonderful bridge to the Netherlands and its contemporary art ... the details and facets that Olaf has included in the profile of the king are difficult to display on a small metallic object and we are proud. It illustrates what we can do as a modern facility."
The smaller currency is already in circulation – the king switched on the 50-cent press himself, according to Coin Update – and new 1 and 2 euros are available for collectors.
Olaf was selected to create the King Willem-Alexander euros in October, several months after Queen Beatrix, his mother, abdicated the throne. This builds on the photographer's relationship with the Dutch royal family – he made a series of portraits of then-Princess, now-Queen Máxima in 2011.
'Masters of Sex' Showtime Campaign by Erwin Olaf
Showtime's highly anticipated drama series, "Masters of Sex," about pioneering researchers of human sexuality Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson premieres September 29.
In January, a Showtime exec approached Olaf at an opening and asked if he would be interested in doing the shoot. "I watched the pilot and found it fascinating, because it takes place around the time that I was born," the photographer remarked. "My parents, who were young people then, were very much influenced by two things: Dr. Spock and Masters and Johnson – for informing their own sexuality and educating their children ... [the crew] gathered in L.A. and built a beautiful set, and made around 25 pictures – in one day! – to be used for advertising and PR."
He took individual portraits of the cast members and a group shot, then insisted on a "bonus picture" featuring Masters (Michael Sheen) and Johnson (Lizzy Caplan): "It's one of my favorites. You can feel the tension in their relationship."
Erwin Olaf Discusses Vogue Netherlands Shoot
Erwin Olaf photographed Ymre Stiekema for "The Master & The Girl," a beauty editorial in Vogue Netherlands' October issue.
"The central theme was Dutch paintings," said Olaf. "Ymre has a classic Dutch face and we dressed her in traditional-like clothing that would have been worn by fishermen's and farmers' wives in the south of Holland. We focused on skin and reflections, from matte to shiny visages." He and stylist Marije Goekoop put in modern elements, including an oversize knit hat and gleaming headphones. "We wanted to combine the past and present, because otherwise we're simply imitating the past and that's not an option [for me]," Olaf explained.
One photo in particular caught the eyes of fashion bloggers: an image of Stiekema breastfeeding her now-nine-month-old daughter, Lymée. "It's so funny ... why should we talk a lot about this incredible, natural thing?" Olaf remarked, adding Goekoop asked for a portrait of the pair. "It's always tricky because, before you know it, it starts to look too kitschy – eliciting responses like, 'Aww, how sweet!' – and that is not what you want to achieve when you make this type of shoot."
Both Olaf and Goekoop noticed Stiekema nursing on set and he approached the model about capturing the moment on film. "She said yes, of course – she's very easygoing," the photographer noted. "I think it's a beautiful portrait. What I like is Ymre's facial expression and how she's holding her baby's hand. It's such a vulnerable gesture that's unique to mothers and their children."
Stylist: Marije Goekoop
Hair: Jean-Luc Amarin
Makeup: Kathinka Gernant
Model: Ymre Stiekema
Erwin Olaf Photographs Dutch Singer Anouk for Vogue
Erwin Olaf photographs Dutch songstress Anouk for the April 2013 anniversary issue of Vogue Netherlands. This issue marks a year since the first issue of Vogue Netherlands hit newsstands and what better way to celebrate than have Erwin shoot one of the country's biggest stars?
Anouk is pictured with birds to emphasize her song by the same name that she recently competed with in the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Watch a behind the scenes video of the shoot with Anouk and some amazing birds of prey.>
Erwin Olaf "Keyhole" Exhibit at Hasted Kraeutler NYC
Starting today, Erwin Olaf will exhibit his "Berlin" and Keyhole" series at Hasted Kraeutler Gallery in New York City. Founded in 2005, Hasted Kraeutler is located in the Chelsea arts district at 537 West 24th Street. An opening reception will be held today Thursday, March 14th from 6 to 8 p.m.
Erwin Olaf's Pop Geisha
Erwin Olaf recently shot the Japanese inspired cover story for March issue of Jalouse magazine. Up and coming model Yumi Lambert, who is the new face of Chanel's spring campaign, graces the magazine's pages wearing futuristic Eastern pieces by Nina Ricci and Lanvin among others.
Photographer: Erwin Olaf
Creative Director: Michel Mallard
Hair: Cyril Laloue
Makeup: Eny Whitehead >
Erwin Olaf Covers Vogue Netherlands
Erwin Olaf photographs models Agnes Nabuurs and Ann Kosta for the cover story of the January/February issue of Vogue Netherlands. The piece is titled "Emmanuelle Toujours" after the classic film series Emmanuelle. Erwin brings the allure of French cinema to life with these enticing photos that smolder with sensuality.
Publication: Vogue Netherlands
Photographer: Erwin Olaf
Stylist: Marije Goekoop
Hair: Sebastien Le Coroller
Makeup: Kathinka Gernant
Manicure: Alexandra Borcila >
Erwin Olaf for Bottega Veneta
Erwin Olaf photographs the Fall/Winter 2012-2013 campaign for Bottega Veneta. The campaign is the latest in Bottega Veneta's creative collaborations that feature the talents of exceptional artists. Tomas Maier, the fashion house's creative director personally selected Olaf. Maier was drawn to Olaf's photography by its "formal precision and conceptual inventiveness."
The women's collection features a dark, rich palette of colors in a strict silhouette and calibrated proportions. Maier says of Olaf, "Erwin perfectly captured the sensibility of the collection. He also added an unexpected narrative that makes the campaign especially rich."
Watch a behind-the-scenes film of the campaign here.
See more of Erwin Olaf's photography here.
B&A Photographers in the American Photography 28
Erwin Olaf, Elena Dorfman, Nick & Chlo'e, Jamie Chung, and Gillian Laub make the list this year for AI-AP's American Photography 28. The annual competition recognizes the best photographs from the past year. A distinguished jury of editors from The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Newsweek/DailyBeast, and Details selected the best from 2011 that will be published in a book this fall.
Two photographs by Elena Dorfman made the list. The first is her portrait of director David Lynch for Telegraph Magazine. The second is from her new series Empire Falling that features abandoned and active rock quarries in the Midwest. Four images from Erwin Olaf's personal series Keyhole, which explores the theme of shame and invites the viewers to be the voyeur, were selected.
Gillian Laub's personal series Girls At War, featuring teenage female settlers in Israel, and Tel Aviv Beach, a photo essay on the city's popular seaside attraction, were both honored. Additionally her portrait of disgraced pastor Ted Haggard for GQ made the list. A photograph from Nick & Chlo'e's personal series "Exile, Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea," on the aesthetic of tyranny in the last days of a dictators' wife was also selected. Finally, Jamie Chung's entry was his photograph of the history of phones for Popular Mechanics.
Learn more about the AI-AP American Photography 28 here.