Kenna, Michael

English (1953-)

A photography career was, in some part, a form of rebellion for Michael Kenna (1953). Sprung from an industrial, working class background, art was both a means of personal expression and a way to make money other than physical labor. Kenna studied painting at the Banbury School of Art, but soon realized that painting would never provide a solid financial base, so he took up photography – commercial and advertising. An admirer of Bill Brandt and Eugene Atget, even Kenna’s utilitarian shots had a surreal, dream-like quality to them, and it wasn’t long before he was pursuing art photography as well.

Kenna’s work in this arena belies his background as well. He is best known for black and white landscapes photos that transform the natural world into a magical place by capturing natural light at dawn or night, using ten-hour exposures. Kenna’s affinity for shooting in the dark stems from its affect on him: because he is photographing what is often impossible to see, Kenna finds himself slowing down, becoming more attuned to the sounds and smells around him. Hidden relationships between man-made structures and the natural world reveal themselves slowly – and allow Kenna to capture images he might be too distracted to notice during the day.