Cris Toala Olivares

Cris Toala Olivares (1982) is a Dutch-Ecuadorian photographer who is most well-known for his long-term photography project on volcanoes and his coffee table book “The Amsterdam Canals”.

Toala Olivares was born in Manta on the coast of Ecuador. At 18, he moved to the Netherlands. As a self-described “street kid,” Toala Olivares has always been interested in marginalized people because he used to be one of them. It was when he started studying social work that his intense desire to understand humans and how they live and love made him turn to photography. What was once a hobby became a platform for him to share stories of people who live on the fringes.

A boy sits in a swing at the tree house called La casa del arbol in Baños Ecuador, as the Tungurahua volcano erupts.

Among his mentors, Toala Olivares can count Jan Six van Hillegom, owner of one of the largest collections of Rembrandt paintings in the world. Baron van Hillegom taught him how to capture light, following the footsteps of the old Dutch masters.

Toala Olivares works for global news agencies AP and Reuters and magazines including GEO and National Geographic. He is drawn to natural and rural environments and their inhabitants and employs drones and helicopters to capture his subjects from all angles and produce powerful images.

Toala Olivares’ main focus is on his independent photography projects. These include his photos of Amsterdam, the city where he is based, which led to the publication “The Amsterdam Canals” in 2014.

Currently, he is working on two long-term projects. One is documenting volcanoes and the people who live around them. This has taken him around the world to places including Cotopaxi and Tungurahua in Ecuador, Mount Sinabung, Mount Agung and Anak Krakatau in Indonesia, Stromboli in Italy and Mount Paektu in North Korea. He aims to capture the natural power of volcanoes and their eruptions as well as the different ways that humans interact with them. His documentary project introduces us to the humans who co-exist with these unstable and sometimes deadly forces of nature.

Mariano Yuquilema, left, and his wife Blanca Regina Jarrin stands with their son Widison's pet llama named "Martin" alongside the family dog "Bobi" on their property in San Jose de Loreto Pedregal, Ecuador, where the Cotopaxi volcano spews ash nearby.

His other independent long-term project  focuses on the relationship between the human race and nature. This project narrates about the Wadden Sea, a tidelands zone on the North Sea coast. He is visiting each island in the area and documents the unique livelihoods and customs of the people who live there and the plants, animals and birds who rely on this environment. The Wadden Sea is facing major erosion partly due to climate change.

His latest project is on the Wadden Sea tidelands zone on the North Sea coast. He is visiting various islands in the area and documenting the unique livelihoods and customs of the people who live there and the plants, animals and birds who rely on this environment, which is facing major erosion partly due to climate change.

Toala Olivares has showcased his work in several international galleries, museums and group exhibitions including at the Festival Photoreporter in Baie de Saint Brieuc, in 2016. He also gives lectures and talks, his TEDtalk ‘A Volcano as Your Neighbour’ was presented on TED global in 2018. He has won several awards for his work, being recognised in WWF and Magnum photography awards in 2016.