Erwin Olaf’s Children of Berlin

Upon receipt of the Johannes Vermeer Award, photographerErwin Olaf was granted £100,000 that he was encouraged to blow all at once on a single project. “My only brief for the location scout was that the buildings must have existed between 1918 and 1940,” he said, a prompt that presented an ideal opportunity for his ongoing fascination with 1920s and ’30s Berlin. “Now I can do something with this idea.”

In six different historic spaces throughout the city, Olaf photographed children and young adults in charming, enigmatic narratives, including a six-year-old girl whose steadfast stare commands the attention of the lens. “Children are getting more powerful in society,” he said. “When my parents were children they were totally ignored.”

How did he direct the young model for her portrait? “I said, ‘You’re the boss’.”