For several years, Danish photographer Søren Solkær has been hunting down urban artists from all across the globe and shooting their portraits for his new exhibit/book SURFACE. It all started in 2011, when renowned street artist Shepard Fairey went to Solkær’s hometown of Copenhagen to do a mural. The lensman snapped his photo and then went on to document over 70 artists — emerging and pioneers alike — who work in the public space. The 248-page hardcover book features the likes of SEEN, LEE Quinones, DABS & MYLA, ELLE, Dan Witz, Jordan Seiler, Logan Hicks, Mark Bode, Rae, SABE, and many others. ANIMAL talked to Solkær about how what it took to complete this creative undertaking.

SEEN
Why did you make this book?
I have had an interest in photography, art and in hip-hop culture since I was a kid. Over the last decade, the street art movement has become an increasingly more important part of the international art world. I embarked on this project because I was curious about who the artists behind all these amazing works were – and also to give them recognition and gather them all in one book. The art is more famous than the person behind it and here’s a chance to link the artist to his or her work.

When did you first get into shooting street art and graffiti?
I started the SURFACE project in 2011. The first artists I photographed was Shepard Fairey as he was doing murals in my native town of Copenhagen. This led to a long journey where I went around the world twice chasing down artists.

DABS & MYLA
How did you convince the artists to participate?
Some were easy, but some of the more iconic and most illegal artists took months to track down. I was able to get to those through the trust and recommendation of other artists.

How many of the artist agreed, but asked you to not expose their faces?
About half the artists in the book cover their faces. Some because the don’t want to be recognized, for obvious reasons, and some because it is some cool shit to do.

ELLE
How long did it take to put together this book?
I have been working on it for three years. The process has been great – so I’ll keep doing it – and now I am working on an extended second edition. I am also doing exhibitions with these images. They have just been shown in Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles (still on) – and will open Saturday at Allouche Gallery, 115 Spring Street, on until May 12.

What was the most difficult part of putting this project together?
It was a logistical nightmare. A lot of the artists travel a lot, so many of them I have had to chase around the world before we could finally do a portrait.

Surface_ Borondo_m1
Do you have a favorite photo?
I love this one of Spanish artist Borondo (pictured above).

“SURFACE,” Søren Solkær, May 2 – May 12, Allouche Gallery, NYC

(Photos: Søren Solkær)