Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Film Noir Inspiration/ Photographer Erwin Olaf

I first came across Erwin Olaf’s work while browsing through one of most New Yorkers favorite haunts, The Strand Bookshop, It was his self titled book by Aperture, I just thought the subject matter and of course as a Prop/ Set Stylist, the sets were so inspiring, I had not really seem anything like it since David Lachapelle or Nick Knight. Of course Erwin’s work comes from a different place, its icier and almost uncomfortable, but at the same time hauntingly beautiful. Largely his images seem to illustrate such emotions as loss, loneliness, and quiet despair, It seems, Erwin plays games with the idea of cold reality versus cruel artifice, capturing that precise moment when innocence, hope, and joy are lost. His images that stuck a chord the most with me in this book were the “Grief” series where work offers a blend of mid-century modern and noir aesthetics seen through a contemporary, fashion-inflected lens. Sad women sitting, standing, stuck in a gaze of disbelief.

My interest again was fueled on my recent run through the Chelsea galleries in my neighborhood in NYC, I came across his current exhibition showing at Hasted Hunt Gallery, On the Art scene Hasted Hunt also represent him in the U.S, see www.hastedhunt.com. The first part of the exhibition “Dawn/Dusk” is a mixture of very light/white composed images and very dark/ black images. In this series of the exhibition, there is a mixture of room views and still life, The sets/ location are so detailed and with their monochromatic approach, almost layered with intensity but with their lack of contrasting colors, also subtly at the same time, He explains it as “I still love time travel—I wanted to go now to 1900. Photographs of African-Americans from 1900 inspired it. This became “Dusk.” It turned out after completing that series I went to Moscow, and as I checked into my hotel I saw a very pale white woman with very pale white children in a black and white versus color, left versus right, right versus left—the two form a mirror series”

The second part of the exhibition is a series of very beautiful people in various states of undress in different hotel rooms. Some opulent, some almost Motel-like, in color and tone they are reminiscent of his “Grief” series as mentioned before.

All his sets for his work are built in his studio in Amsterdam. He works with a team of set designers, costume designers, stylists and of course makeup, and hair. Inspired by the movie business, In particular the 1950s and 1960s where many many films were set-built and shot on that location, Erwin’s aim is to capture a fragment in time, as he says; “So you can idealize your world and really make your dreams come true for one second in photography…it’s a very precise procedure to create this dream world, or nightmare”. To design sets like these would be a dream job for me, To have to the opportunity to research a time period and work through such strong concepts with such purpose would be very fulfilling for someone in my trade.

Erwin was born in Hilversum, in the Netherlands; He currently lives in Amsterdam but also works internationally.

Bernstein and Andriulli represent Erwin Olaf commercially; Look at more of his commercial work at http://www.ba-reps.com/artists/erwin-olaf

1 comment:

  1. Erwin Olaf's Grief series is one of my favorites of his work, too. I thought I read somewhere that the inspiration for it was something along the lines of "reactions to John F. Kennedy's death." He also did some really wonderful work for an article in the New York Times called "Out of the Kitchen, Onto to Couch."