Michael Kenna

British-American, 1953–present

Kenna, a patient observer of his surroundings, creates monochrome landscape images with contrasts, shades and hues that appear unfamiliar to viewers even if the locations are well-known. This results in mysterious and atmospheric photographs, focusing primarily on the interaction between the natural landscape and human-made structures. Kenna is both a diurnal and nocturnal photographer, fascinated by the times of day and night when light is at its most pliant. He often lets the landscape create an inverse reflection in the water or other reflecting surfaces. Spending hours and days on location, his trained eye spots and captures a landscape scene that the ordinary eye does not always notice.

Kenna is particularly well-known for the intimate scale of his photography and his meticulous personal printing style. He works in the traditional, non-digital, silver photographic medium. His exquisitely hand crafted black and white prints, which he still makes himself in his own darkroom, are often recognised in the square format photographs he creates. Kenna’s images reflect a sense of refinement, respect for history, and thorough originality.

Starting his work in photography while studying at The London College of Printing in the seventies, he then moved to San Francisco and worked with Ruth Bernhard. Kenna enjoyed a breakthrough when he was the recipient of The Imogen Cunningham Award in 1981. He went on to have several one-person exhibitions before his first monograph, Michael Kenna Photographs was published in 1984, an acclaimed collection of contemplative images.

Kenna’s photographic prints have now been shown in over 450 one-person gallery and museum exhibitions, and are included in over 100 permanent institutional collections. Over 70 monographs and exhibition catalogues have been published on his work.