Fall

An accepted truism is that a great portrait photograph captures a fleeting moment of perfection and reveals honesty in the eyes of the sitter. In inimitable style, Erwin Olaf turns the tables on this concept in his series ‘Fall’ (2008), in which he shot awkward portraits of young models. The models droopy and unfocused, their eyes partly closed. These are not the cute and perky teenagers of Benetton ads, dressed in rainbow-hued knitwear. Instead, Olaf uses the palette of post-war austerity – washed-out colors in the natural hues of cork, straw, marble, teak and terracotta. The five female and five male models are draped in skin-toned colors. Wearing tan and pale pink, Olaf’s models seem nude, though their emotions are camouflaged.

Fall - Isabel, 2008 | Fuji Crystal Archive Digital Paper | Variable dimensions

Erwin Olaf

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“I was intrigued by the idea of a portrait in which something is out-of-sync,” explains Erwin Olaf. “It became a new type of sexy, to photograph a beautiful model blinking at the wrong moment, using a camera angle that is slightly wrong. It is disturbing to see this incorrect fraction of a second frozen in a portrait.” – Erwin Olaf

Fall - Felix, 2008 | Fuji Crystal Archive Digital Paper | Variable dimensions

Erwin Olaf

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Fall - Mariska, 2008 | Fuji Crystal Archive Digital Paper | Variable dimensions

Erwin Olaf

Available

Fall, Still Life 01, 2008 | Fuji Crystal Archive Digital Paper | 40 x 30 cm

Erwin Olaf

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The still-lifes from the series Fall (2008) evoke a strange feeling of distance. The tranquil still-lives with flowers presented in a simple ceramic vase have an almost meditative effect on the viewer. They have a timeless and relaxed character in contrast to the more restless attitude of the portraits in the series ‘Fall’.  ‘Fall refers to the colors of autumn, but also to a fateful sense of demise – the fall from grace, the fallen angel, the pride before the fall. It denotes a slump, a moment of enfeeblement. The portraits and the spindly floral arrangements function as a sharp reminder of how quickly beauty fades.

About the artist

Erwin Olaf is an internationally exhibiting artist whose diverse practice centers around society’s marginalized individuals, including women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. In 2019 Olaf became a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands after 500 works from his oeuvre were added to the collection of the Rijksmuseum. Taco Dibbits, Rijksmuseum director, called Olaf “one of the most important photographers of the final quarter of the 20th century”.

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ABOUT Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf is an internationally exhibiting artist whose diverse practice centers around society’s marginalized individuals, including people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. In 2019 Olaf became a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands after 500 works from his oeuvre were added to the collection of the Rijksmuseum. Taco Dibbits, Rijksmuseum director, called Olaf “one of the most important photographers of the final quarter of the 20th century”.

In 2018, Olaf completed a triptych of monumental photographic and filmic tableaux portraying periods of seismic change in major world cities, and the citizens embraced and othered by their urban progress. Like much of his work, it is contextualized by complex race relations, the devastation of economic divisions, and the complications of sexuality. Olaf has maintained an activistic approach to equality throughout his 40-year career after starting out documenting pre-AIDS gay liberation in Amsterdam’s nightlife in the 1980s.

A bold and sometimes controversial approach has earned the artist a number of prestigious collaborations, from Vogue and Louis Vuitton, to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. He served as the official portrait artist for the Dutch royal family in 2017, and designed the national side of the euro coins for King Willem-Alexander in 2013. He has been awarded the Netherlands’ prestigious Johannes Vermeer Award, as well as Photographer of the Year at the International Color Awards, and Kunstbeeld magazine’s Dutch Artist of the Year.

Erwin Olaf has exhibited worldwide, including Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Málaga, Spain; Museu da Imagem e do Som, São Paulo, Brazil; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile. In the spring of 2019, Olaf’s work was the subject of a double exhibition at Kunstmuseum The Hague and The Hague Museum of Photography, as well as a solo exhibition at the Shanghai Center of Photography. In 2021, Erwin Olaf had his first solo exhibition Im Wald at Galerie Ron Mandos and mounted a large survey exhibition at Kunsthalle München, Germany.

Olaf’s work is included in numerous private and public collections, such as the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum, both in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, France; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, United States; Art Progressive Collection, United States, and the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia.

Erwin Olaf was born in 1959 in Hilversum, The Netherlands
He lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Visit the artist’s website here.

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