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

SNOW FENCE, SHOSANBETSU, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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FROZEN LANDSCAPE, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2002 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FROZEN LANDSCAPE, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2002

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HILLSIDE FENCE, STUDY 3, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2002 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HILLSIDE FENCE, STUDY 3, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2002

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HILLSIDE FENCE, STUDY 5, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HILLSIDE FENCE, STUDY 5, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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WINTER SEASCAPE, WAKKANAI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

WINTER SEASCAPE, WAKKANAI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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HILLSIDE FENCE, STUDY 4, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HILLSIDE FENCE, STUDY 4, TESHIKAGA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2008

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ASPARAGUS STICKS, STUDY 2, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2007 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

ASPARAGUS STICKS, STUDY 2, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2007

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KUROSAWA'S TREES, STUDY 1, MEMANBETSU, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

KUROSAWA'S TREES, STUDY 1, MEMANBETSU, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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NANDARO BOX, NAYORO, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

NANDARO BOX, NAYORO, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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STRUCTURE AND THIRTY SIX POSTS, LAKE BIWA, HONSHU, JAPAN, 2002 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

STRUCTURE AND THIRTY SIX POSTS, LAKE BIWA, HONSHU, JAPAN, 2002

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LONE TREE, BIBAUSHI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LONE TREE, BIBAUSHI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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QUIET SNOW, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

QUIET SNOW, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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TWELVE HOURS OVER SEA OF OKHOTSK, WAKKANAI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TWELVE HOURS OVER SEA OF OKHOTSK, WAKKANAI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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PHILOSOPHER'S TREE, STUDY 1, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PHILOSOPHER'S TREE, STUDY 1, BIEI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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TRIANGLE GATHERINE, HIGASHIURA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TRIANGLE GATHERINE, HIGASHIURA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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Early Years

Michael Kenna was born in 1953 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 lived and worked as a photographer for over thirty years. Kenna looks for interesting compositions and arrangements within the natural landscape. 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 is a traveller and has photographed all over the world but it is France and Japan that are his favourite subjects. 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.

He also likes to photograph on his own, in silence, creating a sense of calm, solitude and tranquility in his photographs. As he said in an interview in 2009 with 'Fine Art Photography' magazine, '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 pioneer 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. 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 currently lives in Seattle, with his wife and children and continues to travel the world producing new work. 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.

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