New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Erwin Olaf
Hotel, Dawn & Dusk
reviewer #1

Money and power are the two underlying themes that permeate the work of Erwin Olaf. Scenes staged on elaborate sets, with great attention paid to detail, make-up, color and lighting, then intimately photoshopped to give an overall sheen and tone – these are photographs that exemplify high-production values. The scenes too are concerned with the delicate inner lives of seemingly extremely wealthy people, living in extravagant surroundings, some sort of Edwardian dream world in the Dawn and the Dusk series, high end hotels in the Hotel series.

The prints have an unnatural attraction. They are generally large, and seem to be almost not photographs, visitors were constantly looking very closely at the prints to convince themselves that they were not paintings. But the photo technique is superb, and one can literally get closer than in real life and not loose photographic verisimilitude. The image quality is so luscious that I found myself just rolling around admiring all the details and colors. These are images that could not have been made at anytime except the 21st Century.

All right snap out of it! Money and Power. These images must have cost a fortune to make. Probably dozens of people were involved in making the sets, doing the makeup, fitting the clothes, arranging the lighting, then doing the photoshopping and printing. These pictures are in essence a byproducts of the commercial-image-industrial complex. (Mr Olaf’s commercial work can be seen in the Diesel Jeans ads currently showing in the NY City subways.) The power of the technique is large, but what exactly is the message?

Erwin Olaf
Hotel, Dawn & Dusk


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