Søren Solkær: Starling and Black Sun
For the past few years while riding my bicycle along the Mediterranean coast near my home, I was startled occasionally by the sight of a massive black cloud of small birds swooping and diving in a tight formation that swirled above me in an enthralling display of aerial pageantry. I always wondered how and why these avian performances occurred and I am pleased to have discovered the answer in Søren Solkær’s stunning two volume photographic monographs, Starling and Black Sun. Both volumes explore the Black Sun phenomenon pointing to the innocent starling as the source of this cloud of birds that are so dense in their alignment as to blacken the sky in myriad patterns.
There was much more to discover in delving into the panoply of images presented in Solkær’s elegantly conceived volume of starling wonders that he pursued over more than three years in Rome, Sardinia, the Wadden Sea (Netherlands) and Ireland. The migratory patterns of starlings in the European winter provided ample opportunities to capture their remarkable “murmurations”, the term used to describe their aerial performances. The cause of these clouds of birds is both environmental and instinctual as the wind, topography, and predators combine in various combinations to elicit the avian cloud. Even more remarkably, when confronted with a predator, the starlings synchronize their wingbeats in a collective response to threats that evokes a communal defense as well as spectacular displays in the sky. This brief video clip illustrates a majestic scene:
Starling also veers from the macroscopic patterns of the starlings in flight to a microscopic look at a hundred-year-old starling’s feathers as Solkær continues his study of all aspects of the bird’s existence. The elegant images of the detailed structure of the starling’s feathers evoke a complete portrait of the bird by bringing those magnificent flights back to their basics. The microscopic images of feathers present an alien cosmos that somehow reminds the viewer of remote venues in our own world. It is the synchronized beating of those individual feathers that forms the foundation of a community in nature without parallel.
As Søren Solkær movingly relates in his introduction to Starling, “Through the lens, we venture into a domain where atoms assemble into orderly arrays, molecules form intricate structures, providing a reminder that the same fundamental forces that govern the cosmos also shape the tiniest building blocks of life. In these photographs, we witness the architecture of matter and the choreography of molecules…The parallels between the vast and the miniscule are unmistakable…I hope this body of work will inspire many to strengthen or regain a sensory connection with nature.”
Søren Solkær is a Danish photographer, born in 1969. He has been working with a global profile since 1996. He is best known for his distinctive portraits of musicians. He is most recognized as the man responsible for various iconic images of Björk, The White Stripes, Paul McCartney, David Lynch, Amy Winehouse, Pharrell Williams, Adele and Patti Smith.
Søren’s photography is characterized by finding a tension point between intimacy and edginess. His portraits are often regarded as cinematic in tone with a distinctive color palette. The inspirations for his style as a photographer range from filmmakers David Lynch and Wong Kar-Wai to the works of photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia and painter Caspar David Friedrich. His works have been exhibited in New York, Copenhagen, Sydney, Melbourne, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Vancouver, Milano, Munich, Prague and Kyoto. His work is also featured as part of the permanent collection in The Royal Danish Library and The National Portrait Collection in Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark.
His books, Black Sun and Starling can be purchased through his website at: www.sorensolkaer.com
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