An interview with Søren Solkær

Posted on November 30, 2016

Søren grew up in a small village in the south of Denmark. When he graduated from high school he did feel the urge to go travelling. At the age of 20, Soren felt ready to meet the world with a camera around his neck. As he tells in his own words:

“The camera opened a whole new world for me. It enabled me to overcome some of my shyness and gave me the courage to walk up to complete strangers if I found them interesting for doing a portrait as well as asking for access to places I would have otherwise never seen. I would get up very early in the morning and walk around to get photographs in the golden morning light – all because of owning a camera, my life passion was born.”  

After travelling for another year he returned to Denmark. In 1992 Søren was admitted to University and started studying Nordic Literature. In his free time he took portraits of his friends and anyone who’d pose for him.

Shortly after completing his course, Søren went travelling again. This time, he embarked on a nine-month journey to Taiwan, The Philippines, Thailand, Nepal and Tibet. After this journey, Søren did decide to apply for postgraduate studies at FAMU, the Photo- and Film Academy in Prague. Two years after completing his application, Søren moved to Copenhagen in 1995 and opened a studio, in which he did started his official career as a photographer.

About Søren: inspiration & Style

His biggest inspiration is cinema and painting:

“The use of artificial lighting on location creates an atmosphere of hyperrealism. Storytelling is another important aspect in my image taking. I like to use locations to create a stage where people can play and express themselves. I like to see my photographs as imaginary film stills. My photographic studies in Prague and my meeting with Czech photography inspired me a great deal. The staged quality and the somewhat sombre mood seemed to resonate well with my Scandinavian sensibility.”

Søren’s work is commonly noted for its condensed, inward and emotional feel. His visual universe is often described as melancholic or stylized with a subtle sense of humour.

About Søren: his work

Souls

“This portrait series of yogis have been taken over 12 years, primarily on the top of Mount Abu in the state of Rajasthan, India. That is where the headquarters of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University is located.

When I first came to Mount Abu, the radiant expressions of the raja yogis deeply inspired me. I asked myself if it is possible to take a portrait of the soul, and decided to try.”

Photographers Posed

Concurrent to his work with musicians, Solkær furthered his specialisation in portraits by undertaking an eight-year project. Photographers Posed comprised 45 photographers from 15 countries, including Anton Corbijn. The collection featured Solkær's portrayals of the style associated with each of his subjects and was exhibited in galleries in Chicago, Copenhagen, Cologne, Prague and Odense.

Musicians

“When I graduated from The Photo Academy in Prague I was doing art projects exclusively. After realizing that I also needed money to live on, I started looking for paid assignments. I have always loved music, so the most natural thing to do was to turn to the music industry. I hooked up with a friend of my younger brother, Sune Rose Wagner, of The Raveonettes. We started doing photographs together and worked on creating the visual style for his band. 

Working with musicians gives me the opportunity to work with highly creative people which I find to be a very rewarding experience.”

Soren admits that working with musicians isn’t an easy job. Sometimes it takes a lot of time, patience and struggles with management. But, as his story about Paul MCartney describes, waiting is worth the photograph:

“I photographed Paul McCartney at the Q Awards in London. I was the official photographer and had a big studio set up in the back of a grand old London hotel. Whenever someone had received an award they would come into my studio with the presenter of the award and I would get a few minutes to portray them. I had to photograph Sir Paul McCartney for the cover of Q magazine with Alex turner (Arctic Monkeys) and Kylie Minogue. It was all ’kisses and champagne’ and Sir Paul dancing around. The moment after Kylie had left the shoot McCartney suddenly stood on his own, quietly observing the room.That moment I recognized the little boy from Liverpool I had seen in old pictures. I like the honesty in the resulting portrait.”

Working with the highly creative people is something that Solkær has done a lot. He is contributing photographer for Q Magazine, Rolling Stone, Ekko, Gaffa and and CQ. As a result of that, he has toured with Franz Ferdinand in Russia, Metallica in Portugal and Oasis in Argentina. He has also moved into the world of cinema, photographing Danny Boyle, Tim Burton, David Lynch and John Waters.

Søren has also been commissioned by Universal, Sony and EMI to photograph individual artists and groups. This includes working for Metallica, The White Stripes, Tom Jones, Mark Ronson, Vampire Weekend and Led Zeppelin.

Inner Climate

These portraits are taken in 2009 during the COP15 Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

Most of the portraits are of participants of a spiritual delegation called Inner Climate. This delegation counted spiritual leaders and practitioners from many of the big world religions as well as some of the smaller ones.

Surface

With a recently reignited interest in hip-hop culture and street art, Solkær decided to try something different: to step into a landscape he felt was still unaffected by the extra baggage that comes with fame.

“In 2012 I set out to do a large scale portrait project about individuals who create art in the public space.I felt that this was the perfect time to portray the people behind one of the most powerful and prevalent art movements of our time. This took me on an incredible journey to roof tops, back alleys, train stations, studios and walls across the world.”

It is very uncommon for street artists to show their faces on a photograph.  Some of the artists are hiding behind a mask or props to obscure their identity:

“There’s no real industry around [street art] and also there hasn’t been much of a big tradition for photographing street artists. I feel like I really hit this art form at the right time where it’s still big, it’s very important but it’s still touching and it has some of its innocence. I think that’s going to change in the future.”

About Søren: vision

When I ask Søren about the vision of his works, he answers:

“All my photos are just a vast documentation of my life, where I’ve traveled, everything I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. It’s true to the experiences I’ve had.

Through my work I get access to a lot of incredible situations and people. I really enjoy sharing those moments and meetings with other people. Books, exhibitions, lectures and the Internet enable me to engage with a bigger audience.

Growing up, my father was a schoolteacher and my mother worked in a bookshop. As a result I grew up around a lot of books.

Years before I became a photographer I always had the dream of making my own books. Now that most information is shared digitally I treasure books even more. I happily work my ass off to create my books. Most of them have taken over a decade to complete.

My favourite subjects are other artists, and in general people who use their creative and spiritual potential to their fullest. Whether it be musicians, street artists or meditating yogis I love to engage in creative collaborations.”

While working with a lot of creative persons and being creative on his own, Søren has a clear definition of creativity:

“For me creativitity is about tuning in, really putting your full attention to something. When  you do this, you’ll be able seeing things in an unknown way. In my opninion, creativity has to do with focus and being present: whenever I am doing this, it will activate my creativity and ideas will come up.”

Text ©: Mike Warrink / Capturing Creativity

Photography (Portrait Søren & interview photo’s): ©: Henk Warrink / NCO Photography

All other photo’s: © Søren Solkær