dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64

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Erwin Olaf dies at 64

 

Erwin Olaf, the renowned Dutch photographer known for his striking blend of cinematic and painterly aesthetics that capture the multiple dimensions of human existence, has died at the age of 64. Olaf’s artistic vision has a unique appeal, characterized by its meticulous stylization and sophistication. Beneath the surface, however, lies a profound exploration of societal dilemmas, taboos, and established norms. His works often delve into these themes, revealing their complexity through subtle, enigmatic nuances.

 

The photographer’s death was confirmed on Wednesday, September 20th, 2023, through a post on his official Instagram account. ‘It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved friend Erwin Olaf. A few weeks ago, Erwin had a lung transplant. The recovery seemed to be going very well. He suddenly became unwell on Wednesday morning and CPR was to no avail,’ his team shared.‘ We’re going to miss him terribly.’ 

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Grief, Caroline, 2007 | image by Erwin Olaf courtesy of Houk Gallery

 

 

the artistic legacy of erwin olaf

 

In his work, Erwin Olaf (find more here) elevates the mundane and unphotogenic aspects of our world. The subjects are illuminated in flawless lighting and draped in impeccably tailored clothing, set against carefully crafted backdrops. Behind this facade, however, there is often a subtle yet poignant detail — a slightly tilted head or glittering eyes — that subtly unveils a realm of mystery and emotional turmoil. The artist described his creations as ‘a perfect world with a crack.’

 

Olaf’s artistic journey has consistently focused on individuals at the fringes of society, including women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. Throughout his long career, the Dutch artist has actively advocated for equality, initially by capturing the pre-AIDS gay liberation movement in Amsterdam’s nightlife during the 1980s.

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Grief, Grace, 2007 | image by Erwin Olaf courtesy of Houk Gallery

 

 

In 2019 Olaf became a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands after 500 works from his oeuvre were added to the collection of the Rijksmuseum (find more here). Over the years, he served as the official portrait artist for the Dutch royal family, and designed the national side of the euro coins for King Willem-Alexander in 2013. 

 

‘Erwin Olaf saw beauty in every person. He was a key figure in history for his activism and role in the LGBTQIA+ communities and a photographer who defined his medium in the Netherlands. An artist of tremendous drive, his attention to detail was unparalleled,’ Taco Dibbits, Director of the Rijksmuseum, said in reaction to Olaf’s death. ‘The Rijksmuseum received Erwin Olaf’s core collection in 2018. We regarded him as a true friend, and we shall miss him.’ 

 

Meanwhile, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima took to Instagram to commemorate the photographer.‘The Netherlands has lost a unique, exceptionally talented photographer and a great artist,’ they shared.‘We will miss his friendship,’ they added.

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Palm Springs, The Kite, 2018 | image by Erwin Olaf courtesy of Houk Gallery

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Palm Springs, The Farewell, 2018 | image by Erwin Olaf

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Rain, The Hair Dresser’s, 2004 | image by Erwin Olaf courtesy of Houk Gallery

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Palm Springs, American Dream, Self-Portrait with Alex I, 2018 | image by Erwin Olaf

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
The Practice, 2005 | image by Erwin Olaf courtesy of Houk Gallery

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Rain, The Dancing School, 2004 | image by Erwin Olaf

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Hope, The Kitchen, 2005 | image by Erwin Olaf courtesy of Houk Gallery

dutch photographer erwin olaf passes away aged 64
Rain, The Gym, 2004 | image by Erwin Olaf

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Palm Springs, The Bank, 2018

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At the Pool, 2018 | image by Erwin Olaf courtesy of Houk Gallery

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