The idea is that you are moved
to create your own story as observer. Even if you don’t know me at all. When you see a picture, you should start to fantasise. This is my studio.
I’m Erwin Olaf, photographer since 1981. If there’s no personal touch in my work,
there’s no point in being a photographer. Then you could do it,
or the neighbour or anyone else. When young people ask:
How can I become a photographer like you? I say: First you have to become yourself.
You have to know yourself. From there you can start to build your own identity. In 1990 I created a series called Blacks. It was the first time I felt that I had created my own identity. I was inspired by a man on TV dressed in black. And I was playing Janet Jackson on my stereo. She sang:
“Into the darkness we all look the same” That was my inspiration to create this. The world has changed a lot in 30 years
and so have I. The Middle East and the USA
have become more conservative. But when you look at Russia or Southern Europe,
like Spain, Italy and France… You see they are more open, more liberal. My series Royal Blood
was very successful in France, Spain and Italy. The Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles… called the series Eurotrash. But the series Grief, Hope, Rain… was very well received by The New York Times
and by the Americans. Then the Italians said:
“Why don’t you make the clowns anymore?” The most surprising reaction to a photograph… was the Lady Di imitation picture
I made for the Royal Blood series. It wasn’t my purpose to create
a look-alike of Lady Di. But this model was from
the northern part of the Netherlands, Friesland… and when the stylist tilted her face
there was Lady Di, which was fantastic. I exhibited it and it was a scandal
in the UK and in Australia. I touched a raw nerve in those countries. If I only did free work I’d get bored. Because I don’t have so much to say
about myself or the situation in the world. If I only did advertisements or assignments… I’d also get bored.
I love the combination. This is an assignment
that helped me a great deal. It was in 1998 for Diesel Jeans. It had to communicate “dirty old denim.” I had a lot of freedom in the assignment. It was seen by many people in advertising
and was my international breakthrough. People should read my oeuvre as a diary. In his 20s he was sexually frustrated and obsessed. In his 30s he was more aggressive and ambitious. Now I’m 50. People start to think:
What a sad man. Something like that. I made my first video in 1987. Altogether I made around 35 videos. In the beginning they were
related to music. Dutch artists asked me
to officialize their songs. But in the last 10 to 12 years
I’ve made videos… related to my work. Film and photography combined
deepens the meaning of the photography. And vice versa. The sound of film influences
how you see the photographs. Only taking photos would be
a dead-end street for me. And I want to go even further
until I drop dead.