Review: Søren Solkær Starbird : Closer

It’s all a little bit hipster, the Søren Solkær Starbird exhibition. For a start, you’ve got to find your way down New Town side streets to the Danish Cultural Institute, ring the right door bell and find yourself pointed upstairs by a nice young girl who seems somewhat startled that you’ve popped by.

Then there’s Søren Solkær Starbird himself. Let’s face it, being called Starbird gives you one of two career options, you can become a cult photographer for the likes of GQ and Rolling Stone or get a job on Spring Watch. Starbird has wisely opted for the former.

Displaying portraits of the great and the good of popular music, the exhibition features many images from the artist’s coffee table offering Closer. Now in its second edition, the book has eight more pages of glossy de-saturated glimpses of famous faces in moody, Danish poses than it did in its 2009 incarnation.

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A gushing foreword by Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos, who hired Starbird to document the band’s adventures, tells you all you need to know about the style and energy of the photographer. Starbird likes immediacy rather than emulating an artificial situation.

That immediacy is evident in many of the prints, particularly an arresting image of Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher engaging in a genuinely warm, familial embrace. It stands out in the room as a moment of unguarded intimacy, providing the viewer with a new window on the performers in question.

Immediacy is also a quality that makes his work so attractive to music magazines. Yet there remains a distant reserve in much of his work that makes his portraits of Paul McCartney and Duffy seem almost forced and offhand. McCartney looks away from the camera, far more interested in something unseen than revealing himself to the photographer.

Many of the pictures seem to help perpetuate the myths and status of his subjects rather than enlighten the audience. His posed pictures, notably of Junior Senior and the White Stripes, are witty and deftly reinforce the stories the groups have been telling about themselves. Yet for all those thousands of words a picture paints, most of them could have been written by an excellent PR.

RATING: * * *

The Danish Cultural Institute

Run ends April 26

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