Erwin Olaf: I Am

My blog post about the photographer Jimmy Nelson reminded me to write a post about another photographer whose work I really like: Erwin Olaf.

There’s recently been a major exhibition of his work in two museums in The Hague, and I visited it with a photographer friend of mine (this, I think, was his third visit to see the exhibition). Olaf has been making photographs since the early 1980s, and his first collection was published in Stadsgezichten (City Faces) in 1985.


It was a collection of two styles: street photography of Amsterdam’s nightlife, and studio portraits.


I’m pretty sure that that is Henk (on the ground) and Laurens – two guys I used to know from when I lived in Scheveningen. They were frequent visitors to Amsterdam’s nightlife. I recall a visit with them to Chez Manfred and the Floral Palace


This is a self-portrait of Erwin and Teun, made in 1985. He reshot this with the exact same poses in 2019 for the exhibition. The two portraits hung side by side and made a statement about the passage of time.

His work has evolved over the years, taking in video and installations along the way, to creating scenes that hint at stories captured in the image. What the stories are about is left for the viewer to construct. For example, this image from the 2012 series Berlin:

Olaf - Clarchens Ballroom

I’m pleased to have a selection of his books in the library, starting with Stadsgezichten, and travelling through Chessmen, Mind Of Their Own, Silver, Erwin Olaf, Own, and I Am.

Olaf - Chessmen 9072216601

Erwin Olaf - Erwin Olaf12051_f  Erwin Olaf

2019_06_06 21_44 Office Lens 1  ErwinOlafErwinOlaf23070GHXJ_f

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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