Culture / Interview

“Having a Camera Breaks the Ice”: Søren Solkær in Conversation

Danish photographer SØREN SOLKÆR has spent his life capturing musicians from Amy Winehouse to Paul McCartney. Now, in a series of exhibitions and a book, he’s turned his attention to the skies..

Søren, it’s been fascinating to learn about your Black Sun project. Tell us all about it.

I started the Black Sun project about four years ago. I’d been doing portraits for twenty five years and I felt it was time to do something completely different. Starling murmurations happen when starlings are attacked by falcons, and they create shapes and icons in the sky. It was something I saw growing up as a boy in the south of Denmark and I wanted to revisit it. I thought it would take a week, but I’ve been taking photographs of the phenomenon for four years now.

And the project took you across Europe…

To start with I only photographed in Denmark, but then I got curious about where the birds were going so I followed their migration path. It took me to the UK, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain.

You’re most famous for your photographs of musicians such as Paul McCartney. What was it like to go from portraiture to nature photography?

Actually one of the images recently crossed the border: the band New Order used one of the starling images on their album covers… so it was nice to know there was a link. In my previous work, I was used to very staged photographs, with controlled lighting and so on. With this project, the only control I had was in post-production and, more than before, I was relying on my equipment as the murmurations happen in the dark.

Do you work alone? Where do you seek inspiration?

I’ve been doing this project on my own. But it’s been great just to get outside. My aesthetic influences are both classical and landscape painting, but I’ve also been inspired by Japanese woodcuts. The resulting images don’t actually look like photography, and people often mistake them for drawings.

You’ve worked around the world. Which city has had the biggest influence on you?

I studied in the Czech Republic where photography is very close to theatre, and I did a street art project that saw me travel in Australia, India and the United States. But I think London has had the biggest influence on me. For ten years, I was commuting between Copenhagen and a studio in Soho.

To turn back to your photographs of musicians, tell us some of your memories.

Well photographing Amy Winehouse is obviously a special memory now she’s dead, and we spent a full day together. People like Jack White and the musicians from Franz Ferdinand have been nice to work with, as well as a Danish band called The Raveonettes, who got me started internationally… the Arctic Monkeys too, who I’ve known since they were about 16.

You spent about ten years accompanying bands around the world. Do you have some crazy stories to share?

Well I accompanied Oasis on a tour of Argentina, but I tend not to gossip…

Very diplomatic of you! Did you always want to be a photographer?

Not at all. When I left school I had a strong urge to get away from home, and when I first put a camera around my neck, I discovered the freedom it gave me. It was a tool to break the ice. I came back to Denmark to study Nordic Literature, and after graduating I travelled to Nepal and Tibet, where I decided I wanted to pursue photography. I think I was 24 when I started training, but I haven’t done anything else for the past twenty years, so I think I’ve made up for lost time.

SØREN SOLKÆR is a Danish photographer. His book to accompany this Black Sun project can be purhased here.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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