Søren Solkær is a Danish photographer, born in 1969, who has gained worldwide renown for his distinctive portraits. He first studied Scandinavian literature, then photography at FAMU, the Academy of Photography and Film, in Prague.
His work has been exhibited in New York, Copenhagen, Sydney, Melbourne, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Vancouver, Milan, Munich, Prague or Kyoto and is part of the permanent collection of the Danish Royal Library and the National Portrait Collection at Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark. He has now published six books on art photography.
In this interview, he tells us what inspired him to work on Black Sun and why he lived on nothing but rice and bananas for four months for the photography.
4 QUESTIONS TO SØREN SOLKÆR
Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a photographer?
After high school I went travelling for 18 months. Despite a very tight travel budget I bought my first SLR camera and had to live on rice and bananas for 4 months. The camera became my key to meeting the world. I would explore places that I wouldn't have had the guts to enter and approach strangers that my young shy self wouldn’t have dared to confront without a camera around my neck.
After my first travels I studied Nordic literature for a couple of years. I then went travelling for another year. This time photography was my main focus. Upon my return to Denmark I applied to FAMU, the Photo- and Film-Academy in Prague and studied photography there. The following 25 years I became known for my cinematic, stylised portraits of musicians, actors, and filmmakers, from Amy Winehouse, Pharrell Williams, Patti Smith, Paul McCartney to David Lynch.
Photo: Søren Solkær
Please share something about your images. What is your special interest? How do you choose the colors, composition, themes etc.?
In 2017 I was working on a 25 year retrospective portrait book and exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Denmark. 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 a dormant memory 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.
Photo: Søren Solkær
There are several influences on the project: I have been very inspired by Japanese wood cuts and calligraphy. The big landscapes really remind me of old Romantic painters like Caspar David Friedrich. And then I do have some images that look like splash paintings, or abstract expressionist paintings. The paper that I print on is Japanese handmade kozo washi paper, juniper fibre-based handmade paper that’s made in sheets with a heavy texture. The final works don’t look like photography. It’s almost like printing on some very organic textile, and I think that gives the work an even stronger relationship to painting.
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 images. 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 et.c. All in all it has been a very humbling experience to let go of the control of a project.
Photo: Søren Solkær
How do you get inspired? And what inspires you the most? Films, books, or magazines? Or what surrounds you?
The inspirations for my style as a photographer are ranging from filmmakers David Lynch and Wong Kar-Wai through to the works of photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia and painter Caspar David Friedrich. Also having a strong sensory relationship with nature is a main inspiration.
What are your plans for the rest of the day?
Going to the gym. Cooking Thai food for my daughters. Going to a lecture tonight entitled: “Therefore you never fall in love with the wrong person.”