MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953)

MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953)
Michael Kenna is one of the most acclaimed landscape photographers of his generation. His photographs have been the subject of some 50 monographs and are held in the collections of over 100 museums worldwide. He is represented in the United Kingdom by Beetles+Huxley.
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FOUNTAIN OF FLORA, VERSAILLES, FRANCE 1988 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FOUNTAIN OF FLORA, VERSAILLES, FRANCE 1988

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FIVE CANOPIES, CHAUSEY ISLANDS, FRANCE, 2007 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FIVE CANOPIES, CHAUSEY ISLANDS, FRANCE, 2007

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FALAISE D'AVAL ET NUAGES, ETRETAT, HAUTE-NORMANDIE, FRANCE, 2000 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FALAISE D'AVAL ET NUAGES, ETRETAT, HAUTE-NORMANDIE, FRANCE, 2000

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EIGHTEEN HEDGES, VERSAILLES, FRANCE, 1998 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

EIGHTEEN HEDGES, VERSAILLES, FRANCE, 1998

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DIVING BOARDS AND CRUISE SHIP, NICE, ALPES-MARITIMES, FRANCE, 1997 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

DIVING BOARDS AND CRUISE SHIP, NICE, ALPES-MARITIMES, FRANCE, 1997

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BASSIN DE LATONE, VERSAILLES, FRANCE, 1997 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

BASSIN DE LATONE, VERSAILLES, FRANCE, 1997

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AULT CLIFFS, STUDY 1, PICARDY, FRANCE, 2009 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

AULT CLIFFS, STUDY 1, PICARDY, FRANCE, 2009

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PEBBLES AND BEACH HOUSE, CAYEUX-SUR-MER, PICARDIE, FRANCE, 2009 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PEBBLES AND BEACH HOUSE, CAYEUX-SUR-MER, PICARDIE, FRANCE, 2009

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OCTAGONAL BASIN, PARC DE SCEAUX, HAUTS-DE-SEINE, FRANCE, 1996 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

OCTAGONAL BASIN, PARC DE SCEAUX, HAUTS-DE-SEINE, FRANCE, 1996

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TREE, SEINE AND QUAI VOLTAIRE, PARIS, FRANCE, 2013 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TREE, SEINE AND QUAI VOLTAIRE, PARIS, FRANCE, 2013

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COURS LA REINE, PARIS, FRANCE, 1987 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

COURS LA REINE, PARIS, FRANCE, 1987

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LE DESERT DE RETZ, STUDY 21, CHAMBOURCY, YVELINES, FRANCE, 1988 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LE DESERT DE RETZ, STUDY 21, CHAMBOURCY, YVELINES, FRANCE, 1988

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LE DESERT DE RETZ, STUDY 8, CHAMBOURCY, YVELINES, FRANCE, 1988 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LE DESERT DE RETZ, STUDY 8, CHAMBOURCY, YVELINES, FRANCE, 1988

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KUSSHARO LAKE TREE, STUDY NO 8, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

KUSSHARO LAKE TREE, STUDY NO 8, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2008

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STONEHENGE, WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND, 1990 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

STONEHENGE, WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND, 1990

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TRANQUIL BOAT, GRAND CANAL, VERSAILLES, FRANCE, 1996 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TRANQUIL BOAT, GRAND CANAL, VERSAILLES, FRANCE, 1996

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MAPLE TREE IN AUTUMN, KYOTO, HONSHU, JAPAN, 2001 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

MAPLE TREE IN AUTUMN, KYOTO, HONSHU, JAPAN, 2001

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KUSSHARO LAKE TREE, STUDY 10, KOTAN, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2005 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

KUSSHARO LAKE TREE, STUDY 10, KOTAN, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2005

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YUANYANG, STUDY 5, YUNNAN, CHINA, 2013 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

YUANYANG, STUDY 5, YUNNAN, CHINA, 2013

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YUANYANG, STUDY 1, YUNNAN, CHINA, 2014 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

YUANYANG, STUDY 1, YUNNAN, CHINA, 2014

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Early Years

In 1953, Michael Kenna was born in Lancashire, England, into an Irish Catholic family. From an early age Kenna aspired to be a priest and, aged eleven, began studying at a seminary school. However, art quickly became his strongest subject and at the age of 17 he moved to Banbury School of Art in Oxfordshire. He studied painting and then photography, before going on to pursue a degree in photography at the London College of Printing. Initially Kenna concentrated on commercial photography, however, he soon turned to landscapes after seeing the work of Bill Brandt, Josef Sudek, Eugène Atget and Alfred Steiglitz, who were highly influential on him.

Photographic Career

In 1977 Kenna moved to San Francisco where a number of galleries were willing to showcase his work. He quickly settled into life in California where he has lived and worked as a photographer for over thirty years. He is drawn to certain times of day and night, preferring to photograph in the mist, rain and snow. Clear blue sky and sunshine do not inspire him.

He also only photographs his work in black and white, as he believes, "black and white is immediately more mysterious because we see in colour all the time. It is quieter than colour." He started printing for Ruth Bernard when he moved to San Francisco in 1977 and learnt from the creative license she took with the negative to achieve compositional and tonal precision. Greatly influenced by the transformation of negative to final print undertaken by Bernhard, Kenna patiently makes every print himself, burning and dodging to perfect the balance of each image.
Kenna travels around the world constantly photographing the varied landscapes of the planet, including China, the United States of America, Brazil, Czech Republic and Egypt. However, it is France and Japan that he has returned to most frequently. Kenna looks for interesting compositions and arrangements within the natural landscape. Working in a tradition that owes more to the Romantic landscape painters Caspar David Friedrich, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner than to trends of his contemporaries, Kenna's vision of the landscape sees the human dwarfed by the grandeur of the natural world. He transforms the mundane into the extraordinary by registering the presence and absence of the human in the landscape.

Kenna prefers to photograph on his own, in silence, creating a sense of calm, solitude and tranquillity in his photographs. As he stated, "I prefer suggestion over description. The world is pretty chaotic, seemingly always speeding up and getting louder and more visually dense. I am interested in finding and/or creating calm shelters from the storm, places where quiet and solitude is encouraged and inner contemplation possible. I think we could all use a break from time to time..."

In many ways Kenna is an anachronistic contemporary to the Pictorialists, the pioneering pre-Modernist movement of photographers that saw the atmosphere of the photograph as central to its emotive force. Like the Pictorialist photography of Alfred Stieglitz, Kenna's photography places an emotional hold over its viewer through the atmospheric effects of photographing at night, in crepuscular light or in mist, fog and snow. Kenna does not seek to present an accurate copy of the world, but to extract something original and emotive from it. Kenna prints all his own work in the darkroom, ensuring that the tonality of his small, black and white images is evocative rather than informative, interpretive rather than documentary.

His series Confessionals is a culmination of 10-years work, and a departure from his traditional landscape imagery, in which he documents hundreds of Catholic confessional booths. Confessionals is a typology of confessional booths from a distinct geographical region, Reggio Emilia, Italy, and records booths from the 13th century to the present. The project is deeply rooted in his religious upbringing, each booth is uniformly the focal point of each image, framed by the details of the church interior.

Exhibitions and Awards

Kenna currently lives in Seattle, with his wife and children. His photographs are held in permanent collections at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He has been exhibited globally including solo exhibitions in the United States, India, Japan and South Korea. Kenna is also the recipient of numerous awards including the Imogen Cunningham Award in 1981 and in 2003 he was made an Honorary Master of Arts at the Brooks Institute, California.

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