Tributes have been pouring in for internationally acclaimed Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf whose death at 64 was announced on Wednesday.
Olaf, who suffered from a hereditary form of emphysema, had recently had a lung transplant. Seemingly on the way to recovery, he collapsed just weeks later, a representative of the family said in a statement.
Olaf became internationally famous for his black and white series Chessmen, peopled by naked figures in quirky tableaux. It earned him the Photographer of the Year award in 1988.
The naked body, with all its imperfections but always meticulously posed, lit and framed, was one of the hallmarks of his work, as was his homosexuality and taste for controversy.
His series Royal Blood depicted the blood spattered body of a woman, not long after the accident that cost princess Diana her life, as well as other depictions of royals who had come to a sticky end.
Olaf did not shy away from making political statements. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the theatre venue Bataclan in 2015 inspired a series of photographs decrying terrorism.
Olaf also made the official state portraits of the Dutch royal family, as part of his later, less exuberant work. The king said in a message he thanks Olaf for his friendship.
“We think of him with great affection and are thankful for the work he leaves behind and the many special moments we shared with him,” the king said. Olaf was made a Kinight in the Order of the Dutch Lion on his 60th birthday and awarded the royal Medal of Honor for Art and Science in 2023.
Belgian fellow photographer Stephan Vanfleteren, who portrayed Olaf various times and participated in an exhibition to celebrate the bicentenary of the Mauritshuis in 2022 with him, said he was “a photographer and film maker but also a visual poet, a thinker and a visionary.
“He had an open mind, a warm heart but his lungs were to weak to keep him with us any longer.”
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