Erwin Olaf, the shocking factor in fashion imagery

The work of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf (b. 1959,  Hilversum) is often daring and provocative, dealing with social conventions and taboos in a clever, highly stylized way. A former student of Journalism, as he declared for Vogue Italy recently, he felt the need to fabricate his own reality through imagery rather than documenting it.

His art works blend conceptual themes with studio photography techniques creating intentionally unsettling and perfectly polished compositions that have instant emotional impact and capture the essence of our contemporary life. Even his commercial works are acid comments on the crazed modern society, on consumerism of sex and designer brands, and on how glossy culture can become repressive.

Erwin Olaf launched as an international artist in 1988, when he received the Young European Photographer award for his photo series Chessmen, followed by an exhibition at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany.

Olaf's controversial and sophisticated style, both in photography and film making, with a special care for setting design and scenarios full of cultural references allured the advertising and fashion world. He won the Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival in 1999 with his worldwide campaign for Diesel Jeans, award that help build up his impressive record of art and media prizes.

Anouk portrait by Erwin Olaf, Vogue Netherlands, april 2013
Adrien Sahores by Erwin Olaf, Grey mag, spring 2013
Caterina Ravaglia by Erwin Olaf, Grey mag, spring 2013
Caterina Ravaglia, Adrien Sahores by Erwin Olaf, Grey, spring 2013
Yumi Lambert by Erwin Olaf, Jalouse mag, March 2013
Agnes Nabuurs, Anne Koster by Erwin Olaf, Vogue NL,  February 2013
Agnes Nabuurs by Erwin Olaf, Vogue NL,  February 2013
Erwin Olaf, Elle 2008 editorial
Erwin Olaf, NY Times, haute couture editorial, 2006
Aymeline Valade by Erwin Olaf for Bottega Veneta FallWinter 2013 Ad Campaign
Aymeline Valade in Bottega Veneta FallWinter 2013 Ad Campaign by Erwin Olaf

The latest collaborations with the fashion world are the mildest exhibits of the photographer's inner turmoil and include fashion editorials in Grey magazine, Vogue Netherlands, Jalouse magazine and the advertising campaign for Italian label Bottega Veneta for the fall/winter 2013 season. Erwin Olaf's fashion photography is a showcase for his refined portraiture skills, using his unique aesthetic flair in managing colors, patterns and lights, creating dramatic moods, often surrealistic, austere, with renaissance and baroque influences.

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