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Tribute to a brilliant photographer-Erwin Olaf



When his destiny was tragically broken, on September 20, 2023, he was mourned by the King of Holland himself. An artist of astonishing complexity, with works that cover vast cultural fields and who has navigated professionally casually through commercial photography, fashion, conceptual, philosophical, cinematographic, portraiture or video creations, Erwin Olaf Springveld, known professionally as Erwin Olaf , was born on July 2, 1959, in Hilversum, the Netherlands. Erwin studied journalism in Utrecht but it seems that he did not reconcile well with words, preferring the image, moment of choosing a career in the visual arts.

In 2019, Olaf became a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands after 500 works of his work were added to the Rijksmuseum collection. Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, called Olaf „one of the most important photographers of the last quarter of the 20th century”.

Erwin Olaf’s grandiose work, a permanent pendulum between adoration and play, was devoted substantially to activism, being involved in debates on complex race relations, the devastation of economic divisions, and the complications of sexuality. Olaf has maintained his activism throughout his career spanning over 40 years, after he began documenting gay life in Amsterdam in the 1980s.



Fernando Francés describes the huge creation of Erwin Olaf as follows: „The Dutch artist strips those moments of reality and gives them the greatest privilege of all: he gives free rein to the collective imagination, inviting the viewers to question their principles and prejudices. To recreate those settings, he uses devices that make the atmosphere in the gallery dense and suffocating. In an instant, anything, however implausible, is possible. Based on these premises, one can read criticism of consumerism, social isolation of people, decadence, provocation, eroticism, even satire and humor in his photographs. He has no interest in things that lend themselves immediately to easy interpretation.”

Erwin often calls on the Flemish pictorial heritage, with baroque elements, of great atmosphere or creates strange and frozen scenarios, sophisticatedly cinematic, an epic of deep sensation.



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 portraitist for the Dutch royal family in 2017 and designed the national face of the euro coins for King Willem-Alexander in 2013. His photographs have also been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.



His works have appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, FotoMuseum in Moscow, Hong Kong Tapper-Popermajer Gallery, New York Bilbao Art Center, Vitoria-Gazteis Chelsea Art Museum, Groningen Museum of Modern Art in Amsterdam, B&D Galeria from Milan, Roselyn Oxley Gallery and Venlo Institut Neerlandais. His most famous projects include „Grief”, „Rain” and „Royal Blood”.

In 1996, Erwin Olaf was diagnosed with pulmonary emphysema and had to undergo a lung transplant. A few weeks after the operation, at the age of 64, the brilliant artist Erwin Olaf died after showing his courage to face the tragedy of a incurable diseases.



In a paradoxical and eschatological testimony, Erwin Olaf explains to us that „Modern photography doesn’t really interest me, and I think this will be true to my dying day; perhaps I am jealous of painting, but I couldn’t paint”.



Sources:  Alain Truong (, Wikipedia,,, Lavazza Calendar, Ron Mandos Gallery (NL),

©Sud-Est Forum 2023

Posted by on octombrie 22, 2023. Filed under EVENIMENT,FOTOGRAFIE,HOME,NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry