Erwin Olaf

“Something is Happening” is the title of Erwin Olaf’s series of staged photos depicting 50′s – 60′s era Americana.  Watch Mad Men much?  I’m sure it had a lot to do with inspiring this collection (or maybe it’s just my obsession), but the decade represented was definitely seen as the gilded era of American Dreams, when Mom put on make up to bake casseroles and chain smoked cigarettes alone in the kitchen while Dad went off in his Buick to fuck the secretary and down 6 manhattans before swerving home, clipping a homeless man and rinsing the blood off with the garden hose while the kids watched Howdy Doody.  See the rest of the series (well, most of it) after the jump, really eerie.

Isolation, inexpressible depression, perhaps a tinge of suicide?  Olaf’s photos come off more as still lifes than caught in the moment photos.  Each frame struggles to breath in the overly saturated background color, seemingly suffocated by the surroundings.  Even when two people share a space they appear disconnected, as if no one can help them.

Youth, race, gender, all are afflicted under Olaf’s discerning lens.  Each picture perfectly encapsulates the decor of the era down to the tiniest detail, it’s the people that look out of place.  Aliens from the prozac nation cleverly photoshopped into the very snapshots we’ve seen in our parents photo albums; the ones where everyone is all smiles, hands around waists, jumping through sprinklers.  These “people” appear as though they’ve suddenly become so weighed down by their despair that they ceased to move, plasticized, and at that exact moment the camera snapped.

But what about the sex!? Wasn’t everyone cheating behind everyones back (at least on Mad Men), not like a lot has changed in that department.  These emotionally vacant, pre-pill poppers had to get their kicks somewhere if nothing else in their lives seemed worth a damn.  This last set simmers with a calm tension, as though we just missed a parting kiss and they’ve already been seized by the thought of returning back to their “reality”.  Think about what you’ve done, that seems to be what everyone is doing.  I really love Olaf’s recreations; despair, intrigue, misunderstanding, everything that the 90′s seemed to scream was right there back when.  I guess no one really learned from their mistakes though, it’s still hush hush, take a pill, think of how terrible you are then forget it.  See the whole set here.

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