Great Photographs by Michael Kenna: 1990-2017, a new exhibition at A Gallery for Fine
Photography, spans the career of one of the most prolific and renowned landscape photographers working today. Kenna’s career has taken him around the world to capture images of such varied subjects as abandoned automotive plants in Michigan, pastoral countryside in Japan, concentration camps in Eastern Europe, and deserts in Morocco. Kenna’s forthcoming exhibition at A Gallery for Fine Photography focuses primarily on his unique landscape photographs.
A selection of thirty black and white photographs, Great Photographs by Michael Kenna:1990 - 2017 showcases a deceptively wide breadth of style and subject. These landscapes portray a vision of nature that is at once familiar and foreign – trees stretch forth at impossible angles, clouds burst over rolling mountaintops, and bodies of water are rendered as flat and reflective as glass. In addition to his serene landscapes, Kenna’s work often depicts man’s intrusion on the natural world – a quaint Italian village dwarfed by the neighboring mountainside, a group of umbrellas planted eerily on an empty beach, or a ski lift puncturing the pure white of a snowy hillside. There is even the odd cityscape, with photographs of New York showing the city, as it exists both in line with and removed from our preconceived idea of Manhattan.
Kenna has described his work as "more like a haiku rather than a prose." His evocative photographs attempt to find the surreal within the real, to make the invisible visible. Kenna often works at the transitional hour of dawn or in the darkest depths of night, where light is at its most elusive and pliable. He uses long exposures – in some cases, up to 12 hours – to shape the landscape into something unfamiliar. When asked about his methods, Kenna has said, “[at night] you can't always see what's otherwise noticeable during the day … with long exposures you can photograph what the human eye is incapable [of] seeing."
Michael Kenna was born in Widnes, England in 1953. As one of five children born to a working class Irish-Catholic family, he initially aspired to enter the priesthood. However, his passion for the arts led him to The Banbury School of Art, where he studied painting and then photography. Later he attended The London College of Printing and began working as a photographer, artist, and printmaker. He moved to San Francisco in 1977, and currently resides in Seattle.
Michael Kenna's photographs have been shown in numerous exhibitions throughout the world with permanent collections in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; The Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague; The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Kenna has also done a great deal of commercial work for clients such as Volvo, Rolls Royce, Audi, Sprint, Dom Perignon, Château Lafite Rothschild, and The Spanish Tourist Board.