Søren Solkær’s Shapeshifting Beauty of Starlings at the National Nordic Museum

Black Sun #75, Aiguamolls de l’Empordá, Catalonia, Spain. Image courtesy of the artist.

Danish photographer Søren Solkær heads to the National Nordic Museum in Seattle, Washington for a solo exhibition, coinciding with his recent monograph release “Starling”, including 138 exclusive images.

The museum presents Solkær’s Black Sun, an exploration of the shapeshifting starlings captured throughout Europe, beginning December 9th to March 10th, 2024. With fifty photographs and video art pieces studying the shapeshifting murmurations of starling birds, the exhibition, which took Søren back to his childhood landscape of marshes in southern Denmark, reflect on the sounds of fluttering wings elusively in sync with each other.

The artist talks to art currently about the inspiration.

How does your style overlap between your portrait photography and starlings photography?

In my work up until this project I have always worked as a director, a creator. I have been in charge of creating concepts, ideas and moods in my portraits. With "Black Sun" I have opened up to connecting with and receiving from nature. I have used my previous earned skills afterwards in the editing process, finding a visual expression for the images, choosing paper to print the images on etc.

All in all it has been a very humbling experience to let go of the control of a project. I try to put my soul into everything I do – and hope it shines through. I also try to create something that is unique and visually striking. Apart from that this project differs a lot from my portraiture, although there is a resemblance in energy to my early portrait project Souls, where I photographed yogis in open eye meditation on a mountain top in India.

What began the process of murmurations - how did the idea come about?

In 2017 I was working on a 25 year retrospective portrait book and exhibition at Frederiksborg Castle. I was going through all my portraits for a year and decided that I wanted to do a new project that was not about portraiture.

The first thing that came to my mind was an image of a big flock of starlings I had seen flying in intriguing formations as a ten year old. I decided to go to the Wadden Sea on the Danish West Coast where starling murmurations take place in spring and fall. Initially it was all about practicalities like locating the birds and learning about their behavior. On the seventh night I was there I witnessed a large flock of starlings getting attacked by a peregrine falcon. The shapes and formations the flock created, in order to scare off the attacking bird of prey, blew my mind. Beautiful, dramatic and resembling a Japanese ink drawing or a piece of calligraphy. For the next two years I spent my time in that area whenever the birds were there. After the second year I started following the birds as they migrated south and west and thus expanded the project to six other countries: Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Ireland and England. I have now spent six years on this artistic research.