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.