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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CHANNEL CROSSING, CALAIS, FRANCE, 1997 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

CHANNEL CROSSING, CALAIS, FRANCE, 1997

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NIGHT SHADOWS, ST MALO, FRANCE, 2000 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

NIGHT SHADOWS, ST MALO, FRANCE, 2000

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FOUR BIRDS, ST NAZAIRE, FRANCE, 2000 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FOUR BIRDS, ST NAZAIRE, FRANCE, 2000

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MATIN BLANC, BLUE BEACH, NICE, FRANCE, 1997 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

MATIN BLANC, BLUE BEACH, NICE, FRANCE, 1997

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

MUSSEL POSTS, CHAUSEY ISLANDS, FRANCE, 2007

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

FULL MOONRISE, CHAUSEY ISLANDS, FRANCE, 2007

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PERSPECTIVE OF TREES, TSARSKOE SELO, RUSSIA, 1999 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PERSPECTIVE OF TREES, TSARSKOE SELO, RUSSIA, 1999

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HERMITAGE AND FROZEN NEVA, STUDY 1, ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA, 1999 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HERMITAGE AND FROZEN NEVA, STUDY 1, ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA, 1999

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DON QUIXOTE'S GIANTS, STUDY 8, CONSUEGRA, LA MANCHA, SPAIN, 1996 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

DON QUIXOTE'S GIANTS, STUDY 8, CONSUEGRA, LA MANCHA, SPAIN, 1996

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DON QUIXOTE'S GIANTS, STUDY 5, CAMPO DE CRIPTANA, LA MANCHA, SPAIN, 1996 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

DON QUIXOTE'S GIANTS, STUDY 5, CAMPO DE CRIPTANA, LA MANCHA, SPAIN, 1996

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TEOTIHUACAN, STUDY 1, MEXICO, 2006 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TEOTIHUACAN, STUDY 1, MEXICO, 2006

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PLANE AND SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN, RIO DI JANEIRO, BRAZIL, 2006 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PLANE AND SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN, RIO DI JANEIRO, BRAZIL, 2006

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GIZA PYRAMIDS, STUDY 5, CAIRO, EGYPT, 2009 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

GIZA PYRAMIDS, STUDY 5, CAIRO, EGYPT, 2009

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NIGHT LIGHTS, RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZIL, 2009 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

NIGHT LIGHTS, RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZIL, 2009

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MANHATTAN BRIDGE, STUDY 1, NEW YORK, USA, 2006 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

MANHATTAN BRIDGE, STUDY 1, NEW YORK, USA, 2006

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FILEY EARLY WARNING STATION, YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND, 1981 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FILEY EARLY WARNING STATION, YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND, 1981

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SAKURAJIMA VOLCANO, KAGOSHIMA, KYUSHU, JAPAN, 2002 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

SAKURAJIMA VOLCANO, KAGOSHIMA, KYUSHU, JAPAN, 2002

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HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS STUDY 47, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HUANGSHAN MOUNTAINS STUDY 47, ANHUI, CHINA, 2008

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P.O.A

STARK OUTLOOK, KUCHARO LAKE, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

STARK OUTLOOK, KUCHARO LAKE, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2004

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CHIKUI CAPE TREES, MURORAN, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2002 by MICHAEL KENNA (Born 1953) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

CHIKUI CAPE TREES, MURORAN, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, 2002

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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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