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Starling #237, Sardinia, Italy’ By Søren Solkær

Why nature is the new rock and roll

Søren Solkær has left the world of music photography behind to focus on starling murmurations

'Starling #237, Sardinia, Italy’ by Søren Solkær

"One of the great privileges of doing my photographic work is that I’ve met a lot of my heroes,” says Danish photographer Søren Solkær.

“My style of photography attracted the kind of people I was interested in. I like photography that’s a bit moody and introvert. That’s the kind of people who came to me.”

Oddly, given Solkær is most associated with photographing musicians in the late 1990s and early 2000s – including Adele, The White Stripes, Amy Winehouse, Paul McCartney, Damon Albarn and Ronnie Wood – he mentions film director David Lynch first when asked about favourite encounters.

“Working with David Lynch was definitely a highlight,” he says. “He has been a huge inspiration to me visually and I like the way he works across many genres – music, painting, film, photography … meditation is probably his main thing if you ask him. Those other things are expressions of that.”

2David Lynch, 2011 By Søren Solkær

'David Lynch, 2011' by Søren Solkær

“I shot this in Copenhagen in 2010 in a very light Scandinavian space where he was installing an exhibition. In order to make it more fitting for Mr Lynch, I lit the next room with a blue gel to create an atmosphere that had more of the cinematic mystery you find in his movies. Later, he used this portrait as a cover for a box set with all his films.”

Since the late noughties, Solkær has shifted away from his creative, stylised celebrity portraits. “I felt it wasn’t that rock and roll to work in the rock and roll industry anymore,” he says. “It was quite controlled and harder to do creative things.”

Solkær has since focused more on commercial work for ad agencies and on his own personal projects, including a six-year obsession with photographing starling murmurations at home in Denmark and across Europe, including Rome, the Netherlands and the UK. The result is two books – Black Sun and his latest, Starling

2Black Sun 50 By Søren Solkær

'Black sun #50' by Søren Solkær

Lynch would likely share Solkær’s interest in the surreal, meditative starling murmurations, which look like Rorschach ink blots across the sky. Working in both colour and black and white, Solkær’s images range from close-up, detailed images of a single feather to frenzied studies of hundreds of thousands of birds blocking out the sky. But for the most part, he captures the mesmerising forms that the birds collectively produce as they move in waves to fight off hungry falcons and other predators. Often they assume abstract shapes, such as clouds or plumes, but Solkær’s images also contain more identifiable figures, including a giant bird or a cat.

2From The Series Starlings By Søren Solkær

'Starling #225' by Søren Solkær

“I love it when the starlings create recognisable shapes that inspire the imagination,” he says. “This photo – 'Starling #225' – was taken in IJsselstein in the Netherlands. What I like about this one is I see a sort of skull in the image. I like that as a symbol for what is going on – you have the life-and-death idea of the starling murmuration in the image. You see the falcon as well, to the left of the image. The falcon is always in the darkest part of where the birds are, because that’s where the starlings really contract to try to scare off the falcon.”

Starling Feather #24 By Søren Solkær

'Starling feather #24' by Søren Solkær

Some of the shapes he has captured are so clearly defined that you might expect there to be post-production work involved to tidy them up or knock them into shape. But Solkær says that is not the case. “I only change the colours,” he says. “I’ve never moved a single bird. That’s why I’ve spent six years doing this.” He grins. "Taking that step to alter photos would make it a totally different project.”


BlackSun - Søren Solkær

Starling by Søren Solkær is published by Edition Circle. Søren Solkær selects his ‘Best shots’ in the April-June 2024 issue of the RPS Journal.

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