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Fall Erwin Olaf


November 27 December, 2008


An accepted truism is that a great portrait photograph captures a fleeting moment of perfection and reveals honesty in the eyes of the sitter. In inimitable style, Erwin Olaf turns the tables on this concept in his recent series Fall (2008), in which he combines awkward portraits of young models with still-life images of foliage in painted vases. The plants are pert and spiky, the models droopy and unfocussed, their eyes partly closed. These are not the cute and perky teenagers of Benetton ads, dressed in rainbow-hued knitwear. Instead Olaf uses the palette of post-war austerity washed-out colours in the natural hues of cork, straw, marble, teak and terracotta. The five female and five male models are draped in skin-toned clothes. Wearing tan and pale pink, Olaf's models seem nude, though their emotions are camouflaged.

"I was intrigued by the idea of a portrait in which something is out-of-sync," explains Erwin Olaf. "It became a new type of sexy, to photograph a beautiful model blinking at the wrong moment, using a camera angle that is slightly wrong. It is disturbing to see this incorrect fraction of a second frozen in a portrait. Yet with the still-lifes, there is a timeless aspect, since I could make tiny changes during the shoot, moving the plants a little bit to the left or to the right. When the portraits are seen on their own, they seem restless, but when they are placed next to the plants, they gain a more relaxed attitude."

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