featured artist

Olaf Heine

Olaf Profile Pic

We may think we know the island paradise that is Hawaii, but photographer Olaf Heine reveals to us another version. One that is also darker, stranger, and reveals the cracks of our time and the extent of human activity on the island.

These images, taken over a period of twenty years and before the devastating Lahaina fires last summer, peel away all the layers of Hawaii. They are energetic and awe-inspiring as they are melancholic, sensual, and of a Hawaii that Pulitzer Prize winner William Finnegan writes in the book's foreword, as "unexpected...you've never seen before."

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your work alone?
Interesting question. I’d like to know that too. What does that even mean - interesting? In a general sense interesting involves something that is unknown to me, that fascinates me and catches my attention, the novelties, or new discoveries I still have to make. In this respect the most interesting things that you wouldn’t learn from my work are probably my untold stories, the photographs I have not shot and shared yet.
What aspects of your work do you find the most fulfilling?
There’s a whole lot that is fulfilling about what I do. What resonates with me as a photographer is how complex and diverse this world is. What an adventurous journey – inward as well as external - this life can be. And that it generally is not only moving in one direction. Every single situation is different, every new perspective requires reflection. Life is extremely broad and so is photography. That’s just how I see it. The eye doesn’t look entirely straight forward. You always see a little to the left and a little to the right and that’s exactly how I try to move as a photographer.

What is really fulfilling is the curiosity, the urge to learn, to question an existing idea, to evoke emotion, to shed light on something unknown, or to provoke a thought through my photographs - that is how it works for me. That’s sort of what keeps me going. To be able to use my work, my creative voice as a form of expression and channel my own thoughts and feelings. In this way, we are able to cross boundaries of language and culture, which is what is truly valuable to me.

My photo series ‘Hawaii’ is about the elementary as well as the spiritual meaning of the ocean. The ocean is the secret architect of Hawaii. Its water continuously changes the shapes of the islands here. It is both life-giving and threatening, a transformative element that continuously modulates the islands. At the same time, the extent and consequences of human actions and their effects are made abundantly clear - whether erosion on the beaches or plastic in the sea.

In the end, everything is connected. Witnessing how the ocean not only takes, but also gives and rewards people, and how watermen like surfer Laird Hamilton or Kai Lenny confront the irrepressible power of the sea is extremely fulfilling.
What unexpected situations made you who you are today?
Every mistake I made led me down the path that brought me here today, I suppose. It takes a lot of collapse and failure to get to the threshold of a decent picture.
What does it mean to be original or unique?
I understand that these kinds of questions seem of importance in a world saturated with societal expectations but quite honestly, I don’t think in categories of that sort. Being yourself, acting authentic, and staying true to your own vision and voice is what is original to me.
What are you most proud of?
I would have to say the thing I am most proud of is my kids. To see them navigate through this complicated world in a non-judgmental, open, and curious way, to see them taking their time to listen, learn and reflect on everything and then have them come up with their own personal understandings and definitions, their own smart thoughts and funny opinions is just pure joy.
Heine-07-DiamondHead Diamond Head and Honolulu, Tantalus, Oʿahu, 2022
This kaleidoscope of emotions is depicted through Olaf's monochromatic lens in his new book, Hawai'i (teNeues Publishers). The ocean, omnipresent and the secret architect of Hawaii is brought to life through those that surf and fish, as well as through tourists, who visit in search of opulent beauty.
Heine-01_AnthonyWalsh Anthony Walsh, Banzai Pipeline, Oʿahu, 2019
Heine-02_Kaimi Kaʿimi at Chuns, Oʿahu, 2022
Jack Johnson (Fall Line), Cologne 2023

Heine-04_Unko Unko Kimo, Makaha, Oʿahu, 2022
Heine-05_Laird Laird Hamilton (Queenʾs Bath), Kauaʿi, 2018
Heine-06_HaneleiRiver Hanalei River, Hanalei, Kauaʿi, 2018
The Berlin photographer Olaf Heine shows the sensuality of Brazil and does without striking color, he is primarily concerned with the form. The well-known portrait and fashion photographer was fascinated by the country, which he has traveled to several times. In his coffee table book Brazil, Heine juxtaposes the Brazilian landscape and architecture with the curves of the people, surfers and beautiful women. To do this, he dispenses with distracting colors and provides an unusual black-and-white view of Brazil.
Heine-08_Worker's Salary A Worker’s Salary, Belo Horizonte, 2011
Heine-09_Drawing in Oscar Niemeyer's Office Drawing in Oscar Niemeyer’s Office, Rio de Janeiro, 2011
Heine-10_Oscar Niemeyer Oscar Niemeyer, São Paulo, 2016