Stunning Photos of Starling Murmurations that Aren’t


There are a few good reasons why you should go about getting in touch with a photographer before using his or her work. Even if they’re okay with blogs and news outlets pick up the work without their permission (not saying they should be, but some are) you might be missing some critically important information about the series.

Such is the case with artist Alain Delorme‘s series “Murmurations,” because these photographs that circulated the web initially as beautiful captures of starling flocks (better known as murmurations) in amazing shapes aren’t actually photos of birds at all… the images are manipulations comprising of thousands of plastic bags made to look like starling murmurations.

When we got in touch with Delorme to ask permission to share his photographs, this is the reply we received:

This series is actually an artistic work, not a documentary one. I play with the murmuration’s popular imagery and manipulated it digitally to better question our consumer society.

From far away you imagine starlings flying at sunset, but if you got closer you would realize that I have actually digitally assembled thousands of plastic bags. These “Murmurations” suddenly become “Ephemeral Plastic Sculptures” and their beautiful, almost calligraphic shape, a threat, hiding our horizon… and polluting our dreams?

Here’s a look at the series:







“The context of the images is only hinted at, without explicit geographic positioning. The outline of our proud industrial societies, factory chimneys and power lines stand out as shadows playing against a sky that is bathed in a twilight that seems to announce the end of an era,” explains photography historian Raphaële Bertho in the series’ statement.

“Because the plastic bag poses a truly universal threat: it invades urban surroundings, litters natural habitats, paves seabed, and takes over deserts.”

Real or not, this is in fact what happens when a starling murmuration performs its beautiful “Bird Ballet,” which is actually the title of an incredible viral video we shared earlier this year that captured the birds in action. It is, in a word, mesmerizing:

For more from Mr. Delorme, be sure to head over to his website and browse his entire portfolio. And if you’re the curious type who would like to find out more about starling murmurations and how or why they do what they do, you can do so at this link.

(via Visual News)

Image credits: Images by Alain Delorme and used with permission.

  • fgdfggdf

    so this is a plastic bag copied a few thousand times in photoshop to make it look like a swarm? so what?

    would be interesting if it´s a real world installation out of thousands of plastic bags.

  • ambleyonder

    flew right over you head didn’t it

  • Omar Salgado

    As a conceptual work, it is fine at questioning our actions towards Nature. As photography, it would be a composite, thus not photography in its generation and manipulation.

  • Joshua Tobias George Barrett

    Why isn’t a composite photography?

  • Omar Salgado

    Because you’re taking or creating elements not inherent to a direct take. There is always manipulation to photography, even before pressing the shutter button; the question is not if it is good or bad, but if it is within the margins of the medium or had to resort to external elements that are visible, that are imprinted.

  • Joe Bird

    Excellent reply Omar. I could replicate this effect in a 3d program and composite it into photoshop, but at the loss of wonder for the world of nature and its unexpected design rituals. Our eyes are damaged by the cynics and effects, and our sense of wonder is plagiarized by our new sense of doubt.

  • Omar Salgado

    What I find interesting in a “sense of wonder” is replicating what we see using a medium that, whatever we do, always distorts reality, to say the least. But that’s technical manipulation.

    I said before that there’s manipulation even before pressing the shutter button because what we decide to include/exclude in the frame is always conditioned and dependant on a history of the visual as a conception, as an action, as political. It is the manipulation of a corpus of knowledge, and I consider that the “cynics and effects” get their way in there for the very same reason of the corpus.

    So, if you let me pose a question, it would be this:
    Is a photograph worthy because it questions the world it represents or because it gives answers?

    I think the sense of doubt must be the doubt before the world, not before the photographic work.

    Manipulation, outside or inside, has always existed, but digital makes it far easier inside. A very talented digital manipulator must not leave any mark that arouses suspicion on his methods, interventions or decisions. I feel he failed to do this by disclosuring how his work was done, so leaving us with a hesitation towards his work, not the world, and resting merits on his photography skills, although not his intention.

  • Name

    rave a message