Erwin Olaf (Amsterdam, born 1959) is a portrait/fashion photographer who likes to capture “the unspoken, the overlooked, that which typically resists easy documentation”. He visually communicates social issues, taboos and bourgeois conventions within the framework of his pictures. http://www.erwinolaf.com/index.html#/biography/
In 2007 Olaf created a series of portraits titled ‘Grief’, these portraits consist of women in a home environment, styled in 1950’s-60’s clothing. The way he has positioned the models encourages the viewer to really speculate their body language. It is clear that Olaf has focused on expression, how one can perceive an individual through self presentation. Undertaking the series of photographs in a home location, brings a certain kind of intrusive feel, as a home environment is usually a private space.
“Grief is a series about the choreography of emotion, and what you can create in the studio,” explains Erwin Olaf. “So I wanted to ask the question: how does grief really look? What is the aesthetic of grieving? In my portrait of Grace, even though you don't see her face, the way she is standing with her head tilted, how she looks out the window, the way the handkerchief is crumpled in her hand, tells a story. It's the same as when you watch a movie. You might start to cry, even though what you see is fake.” This statement made my Olaf himself explains how powerful the photographic narrative can be, by suggestive elements and using props as signifiers, really encourages a story which brings depth to the image. In contrast to this, the statement can be quite contradictive as he mentions that the photo is ‘fake’, depicting his own reality. The fact that the image we see is staged makes the photograph more subjective to viewer and the interpretation becomes more broad, dependent upon cultural backgrounds, experiences and how we perceive reality itself.
When we put the series into context and have an understanding of the methodology we see that the images are based on ‘post-war American high society’. By obtaining this information we as a viewer become more understanding of the clothing, location and the set-up, allowing us to enter the photographer’s reality. http://reflexamsterdam.com/wp-content/themes/newfish/pdf/erwin_olaf_grief.pdf
This series of imagery has inspired me in many aspects, the main one being the atmospheric qualities. I admire the way Olaf has use expressive body language and symbolic features, to create this haunting feel. I will try to interpret these qualities in my final outcome, however my concept will be in relation to exhaustion. I also like the staged elements in regards to the setting, I would like to construct my own setting to portray my narrative. It also intertwines with ‘Image and Reality’ as he is manipulating the human eye by staging the image. I want to have this manipulation in my own series, as I intend to construct my own reality.