Lukas Felzmann – Swarm

Photographs copyright Lukas Felzmann 2011 published by Lars Muller Publishers

When first reading Lukas Felzmann’s recent photobook “Swarm”, my immediate recollection was a similar visual experience while in Rome. As the afternoon approached dusk, dense flocks of birds continue to create the most mesmerizing patterns overhead. From a distance, it appears as though there was an undulating plume of smoke, but upon approach, the pixelization materialized into feathers, wings and heads of a large mass of birds in flight.

Felzmann is investigating the aesthetics of group behaviors using as his subject birds which flock together during certain times of year in Central California. During these periods, a variety of birds will maintain a mysterious sense of order that provides a visual impression of organization, when logically it seems that none should exist.

Felzmann subject is relatively simple as Peter Pfrunder summarizes very nicely “Even if the pictures seem poor in content at first glance – just birds, sky, earth – they acquire a richness through their dense sequencing, the rhythm of near and far, the alternation of profusion and sparseness, the dynamic of small and large changes, and through the variety of that which is always the same.”

He provides a viewpoint from both the outside looking in at these swirling masses and what it might be to be on the inside looking out. That looking at a mob from a great distance is a completely different perspective from the middle or even on the edges. The view from the inside appears to be chaos, but with some underlying and potentially unsaid purpose: why do these groups move en-mass as they do? The view from the outside is a series of random shifting patterns, with some cohesiveness of the ebb and flow of the mass around a difficult to define and seemingly elusive heavy density in the centermost. Nevertheless, there is a beautiful poetry found in this abstract body of work.

The hardcover book has a dust cover and belly band. The essays are provided by Peter Pfrunder, Gordon H. Orians, Deborah M. Gordon, Wallace Stevens, and Lukas Felzmann.

104 thoughts on “Lukas Felzmann – Swarm

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  1. Really neat. Swarms of birds have always captured my attention, there is something so beautiful about them. Apparently they captured Lukas attention as well. Looks like a a great book, thank you for sharing.

  2. Very beautiful! What amazes me most is the fact that these birds move like one huge body; they go every which way without ever colliding.

  3. I love “the pixelization materialized into feathers” fantastic description! My favorite is the 2nd to last but I agree with others that it made me a bit anxious to see that many birds at one time!

  4. murmurations – what a good word. In 37 years, i have only seen a couple of big ones first hand but they are very memorable, to catch them with a camera so well is an achievement

  5. The changing light just before sunset gets birds into a flying tizzy. Sometimes it’s like they want just one more go around the sky before they have to head back to the nest. Happens the world over every sunset but I’ve never heard any scientific theory as to why it happens at that time, but it does. Unless its raining, then the birds are apparently otherwise occupied.

  6. Thanks for sharing.Beautiful book and images. reminds me when I lived in rome. Would stare at the sky amazed wondering how they moved in perfect secquency towards a unique direction, in such harmony. It must be instinct. maybe we could learn from them. tanks again.

  7. That photo book reminds me of the bats on South Congress in Austin, TX. Every day at dusk they emerge in droves from under the South Congress bridge and fly off into the sky in a huge wave. People go and sit & watch this ritual, it was crazy to see.

  8. My only recollection of a swarm was in about 1980 when there was the most extraordinary infestation of ladybugs that simply descended on land and sea. We were on a ferry from England to Holland and some cars on that ferry looked red – because they were coated in ladybugs. Such an extraordinary sight. Your pictures are great!

  9. Wow – we have starlings that gather on a tree near our house. Years back, when they took to the skies, my young son asked if they were having a disco, as they looked like they were dancing. Now we try and guess what tune they are dancing to!! Thank you for reminding me of that memory 🙂

  10. As to buyng the book, Lukas just emailed me to say it can be ordered by any bookstore, online its in stock at Photo-Eye, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles plus many other places. Someone else just sent me a note that they purchased their copy on Amazon.

    Cheers!

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