Champagner Ruinart x Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf Photograph

Since 1729 house Ruinart continually works to perfect its wines. The main focus is put on the precious Chardonnay.
This handwriting is to be found in all the Cuvèes. Its strength is rooted in the three century old history of the house.
Among others, Ruinart contributed to shifting french art into peoples’ consciousness.
The talented artist Alphonse Mucha was hired as early as 1896 to design a striking advertisement. He was the first in a long series of renowned artists that came from different fields of the arts. This is how the love between artists and the Champagne house started.
In 2016 Ruinart gives its trust to the dutch photographer Erwin Olaf. With his vision of perfection and his deep respect, Erwin Olaf focuses on the elegant and mystical cellar of the house, which counts to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. He narrates an extraordinary story of Crayèrs r his camera lens.
I met Erwin Olaf at Art Basel and asked him several questions:

What was your first impression when entering the cellar?
“I had two different feelings about the cellar, one was feeling overpowered and the other were my racing thoughts: what is there left to add to this incredible legend and how do I get this enormous cellar into one picture.”

How much time did you spend in the cellars?
“The whole process took 1 ½ years. We actually threw away one of the series and started over. You go into those cellars and do a shooting and at home you realize that it is not the result you aimed for and then you start over again.”

Why did you decide to take the pictures in black and white? Usually you photograph is in color and take provocative pictures. “In the beginning there is usually an idea with models and complex light installations but it did not work out. I walked around in the cellar where the lights are orange-based, this lighting reduces everything to a void. This is the reason why I decided to reduce my photographs to black and white, to focus more on the “graffitis”. That way I was able to reflect those feelings that I had during my work there. I never had a work assignment that close to my own art. It brought me 95% satisfaction.”

Do you have a favorite picture in this series?
“It is the same as the relationship to your own children. It doesn’t matter if they are beautiful, extremely gorgeous or maybe not as beautiful. For yourself they are the best, most amazing and most beautiful. Every picture has its own charm.”

What graffiti is the most thought-provoking to you?
“The small face in an approximately 1 meter deep niche. I discovered it on the last day of our shooting. It was hidden behind the boxes. My thoughts were: why does someone take time to make this or what is the reason and meaning behind it?.”

I assume, that you have already had one or two glasses of the Blanc de Blancs. How would you describe it?
“Excellent, very good, velvety, it fits me, just classic and stylish.”

His pictures are his words, reflecting the feelings that one has in this impressive cellar. I know what I am talking about, because it really is an incredible atmosphere down there. The observer is able to be immersed in his thoughts and therefore dream about the stories that surround these graffitis.

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