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Behind the Photo: Michael Kenna


photo-eye Gallery Behind the Photo: Michael Kenna Michael Kenna: A Retrospective, is currently in it's fourth week at photo-eye Gallery. The exhibition continues through September 10th and the detail, tone, and richness of Kenna's gorgeous Gelatin-Silver prints is something one must experience in person. If you haven't already visited our Gallery in Santa Fe to see the retrospective, please do so, as the images on display have quickly become favorites of the photo-eye Gallery staff. Gallery Associate Savannah Sakry asked Kenna to explain the making of, or share special memories behind, five of the fifty-five photographs currently on view."

Michael Kenna, Hokkaido, Japan, 2015 © Tsuyoshi Kato

Michael Kenna: A Retrospective, is currently in it's fourth week at photo-eye Gallery. The exhibition continues through September 10th and the detail, tone, and richness of Kenna's gorgeous Gelatin-Silver prints is something one must experience in person. If you haven't already visited our Gallery in Santa Fe to see the retrospective, please do so, as the images on display have quickly become favorites of the photo-eye Gallery staff. Gallery Associate Savannah Sakry asked Kenna to explain the making of, or share special memories behind, five of the fifty-five photographs currently on view.


Dawn Mist, Mont St. Michel, France, 1994 – © Michael Kenna, 8x8" Gelatin-Silver Print $3,000, Edition of 45

Dawn Mist, Mont St. Michel, France, 1994

Mont Saint Michel has been one of my favorite places to visit and photograph for many years. I have been privileged to have stayed close to the abbey with the Benedictine monks, attending their daily monastic rituals. This has meant getting up very early in the morning! This particular image was made on a walk after the dawn service of Matins. The mist was still quite dense but would burn off very soon. The receding tide had left pools of water and wonderful reflections.

Seven Horses, Iti Maunga, Easter Island, 2001–© Michael Kenna,  8x8", Gelatin-Silver Print, $3500, Ed. of 45

Seven Horses, Iti Maunga, Easter Island, 2001

The goal of my visits to Easter Island in 2000 and 2001 was to photograph the amazing Moai statues. Nazraeli Press subsequently produced a lovely book of these images. As a photographer it is important to be constantly aware of visual possibilities and opportunities. Ansel once remarked that when you have photographed you should look behind you for it could be more interesting than what is in front of you! I saw these wild horses on a distant hill while photographing the Moai.

Huangshan Mountains, Study 27, Anhui, China, 2009 – © Michael Kenna, 8x8", Gelatin-Silver Print, $3000, Ed. of 45

Huangshan Mountains, Study 27, Anhui, China, 2009

The resilience and determination of nature is beyond my understanding. How can a tree grow out of this small crack in a huge rock on the top of a mountain? I don’t want to be over dramatic, but this small example seems like a general metaphor for life. I love these lone, brave trees, demanding their right to exist, hanging on for dear life. This is probably the closest I get to making portraits!

Beach Rocks, Gageo-Do, South Korea, 2012– © Michael Kenna, 8x8", Silver-Gelatin Print, $2500, Ed. of 45

Beach Rocks, Gageo-do, Shinan, South Korea, 2012

Shinan is an archipelago in the South West of Korea with 1004 islands, and I was kindly invited by the Mayor of Shinan to photograph there. I find that it is easy to be seduced by nature. The combination of earth, water and sky, in diverse and complex combinations and variations never fails to astonish. The beach of Gageo-do has some marvelous rocks. This was an early morning long exposure as the tide was coming in.

Tea Estates, Study 1, Munnar, India, 2008 – © Michael Kenna, 8x8" Silver-Gelatin Print, $3000, Ed. of 45

Tea Estates, Study 1, Munnar, India, 2008

My memories of the tea estates are not wholly photographic. They include constantly picking off blood sucking leeches which seemed to be very attracted to my very white legs! Perhaps this is partly the reason I made this image while standing on the top of a minibus! Munnar is a beautiful location. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view, it was pouring with rain most of the time I was there. This made for some good clouds, but difficult conditions to work in. I had found this location the night before and came back very early in the morning to make the photograph.

Michael Kenna: A Retrospective is on view at photo-eye Gallery through September 10th, with works by Rachel Phillips also on display.

For more information, and to purchase prints, please contact the gallery at 505.988.5152 x 202, or gallery@photoeye.com.

View Works from Michael Kenna: A Retrospective

Read Savannah Sakry's Interview with Kenna

View Books Available by Michael Kenna

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