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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TOWER BRIDGE, LONDON, ENGLAND, 2007 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TOWER BRIDGE, LONDON, ENGLAND, 2007

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REFLECTED TREE, HONGKUN, ANHUI, CHINA, 2007 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

REFLECTED TREE, HONGKUN, ANHUI, CHINA, 2007

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LIJIANG RIVER, STUDY 4, GUILIN, CHINA, 2006 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LIJIANG RIVER, STUDY 4, GUILIN, CHINA, 2006

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HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY 42, ANHUI, CHINA, 2010 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY 42, ANHUI, CHINA, 2010

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WHITE GOOSE PATHWAY, HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, CHINA, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

WHITE GOOSE PATHWAY, HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, CHINA, 2008

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HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY NO 1, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY NO 1, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008

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HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY NO 8, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY NO 8, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008

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HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY NO 11, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS, STUDY NO 11, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008

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SKYLINE, STUDY 3, SHANGHAI, CHINA, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

SKYLINE, STUDY 3, SHANGHAI, CHINA, 2008

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LIJIANG RIVER, STUDY NO 5, GUILIN, CHINA, 2006 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LIJIANG RIVER, STUDY NO 5, GUILIN, CHINA, 2006

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LAKE BRIDGE, HONGKUN, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LAKE BRIDGE, HONGKUN, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008

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SIXTY TREES, NAKAFURANO, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

SIXTY TREES, NAKAFURANO, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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WHITE COPSE, STUDY 3, WAKKANAI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

WHITE COPSE, STUDY 3, WAKKANAI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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SEVEN POSTS IN SNOW, RUMOI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

SEVEN POSTS IN SNOW, RUMOI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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ASPARAGUS STICKS, STUDY 1, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2007 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

ASPARAGUS STICKS, STUDY 1, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2007

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TORII GATE, SHOSANBETSU, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TORII GATE, SHOSANBETSU, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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BAMBOO HARBOR GUIDES, STUDY 2, HINAGU, KYUSHU, JAPAN, 2002 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

BAMBOO HARBOR GUIDES, STUDY 2, HINAGU, KYUSHU, JAPAN, 2002

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TAUSHUBETSU BRIDGE, NUKABIRA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TAUSHUBETSU BRIDGE, NUKABIRA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2008

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FIVE TREES, TOYA LAKE, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FIVE TREES, TOYA LAKE, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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AFTERNOON LIGHT, SHIBECA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

AFTERNOON LIGHT, SHIBECA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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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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