Hermitage Amsterdam presents Erwin Olaf’

11 Jun 2010
12 Sep 2010

From 11 June to 12 September 2010, Hermitage Amsterdam will be exhibiting a photo series by Erwin Olaf entitled DUSK & DAWN. The exhibition comprises 12 works and can be viewed on the first floor of the Keizersvleugel (the wing on Nieuwe Keizersgracht). Olaf’s inspiration for this series was the work of photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. From 1899 to 1900, she photographed African-American pupils of the Hampton Institute in Virginia. Their life story at that time was still overshadowed by their lot as freed slaves. Through her sophisticated aesthetic style, Johnston shows the world that, despite their dark past, a bright future is within these pupils’ reach.


Erwin Olaf ‘The Mother’ 2009 - source


DUSK is set at the beginning of the twentieth century and portrays an upper middle class, dark skinned family. The series gives the impression that the enlightened end of a long road to a liberated world has been found: a social paradise.

In DAWN, Olaf shows the same scenes, only this time the setting is Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century and, moreover, the palette is entirely pale. The inspiration for this work came to Olaf one morning in Moscow where he was staying in a five star hotel. A white woman and her son entered the opulent breakfast room. Both of them were blond and dressed in white clothes. Seated on white chairs, at a table covered with a white cloth, and surrounded by high, blank white walls, Olaf saw the counterpart of DUSK take shape before his eyes. And so DAWN became the aesthetic mirror to DUSK.

Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf (1959) is renowned all over the globe as one of the world’s most extraordinary modern photographers. Using sublime irony, he can lay open our illusion of freedom. This applies to both his visually confrontational series and his more recent, more serene work, in which he demonstrates how we are imprisoned by our self-censorship. Alongside photography, Olaf produces films and videos. He is often requested for international fund-raising campaigns. Olaf has produced countless publications and won many awards. He regularly contributes to international newspapers and magazines such as New York Times Magazine, Sunday Times, Elle and Vanity Fair. Recently, the prestigious Aperture Foundation published the monograph Erwin Olaf. His work is exhibited in major international museums, such as the Museum of the City of New York, the Chelsea Art Museum (New York), the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Toronto) and the Maison européenne de la photographie in Paris. Erwin Olaf is represented by Flatland (Utrecht/Paris).