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Michael Kenna one of the world’s leading landscape photographers, is known for his emphatically analogue approach to his work and his elegiac tone. His exhibition Philosopher’s Tree is currently on at Blue Lotus Galley, Hong Kong. Here is an online preview of the photographs.
‘Michael Kenna is arguable today’s most important landscape photographer. His timeless monochrome images capture the inner essence of nature’s beauty. Kenna filters reality through long time exposures, which create ‘empty’ space, reminding us of Chinese ink paintings. When photographing, Kenna looks for simplicity of lines and interesting abstract forms. As per Kenna’s own words: “I don’t need to be fast, I don’t need high definition, I don’t need to see the world in colour – that’s what we see all the time. I want my work to be mysterious, an interpretation, a catalyst for one’s imagination.”
Michael Kenna is one of those rare people who have resisted the fast pace dictated to us in today’s rushed city life. Kenna prefers to take his time and work alone… slowly. He has been doing this for over forty years. When he explores a new location he never knows ahead of time how long he will be there: a few minutes, some hours or days. He often returns to the same place repeatedly over a long period of time. As Kenna says: “It’s like connecting with a friend; you never know how long a conversation will last and which area the conversation will go into.”
This attitude extends to his working method in the darkroom. Kenna still works in analogue only. He photographs primarily with Hasselblad film cameras and spends hours in the darkroom developing the perfect photographic print as if he was chiseling a sculpture. The resulting atmospheric imagery expresses a unique zen-like tranquility.
Initially influenced by the European masters Bill Brandt, Eugene Atget and Josef Sudek, Kenna has been photographing in Asia since the mid eighties, particularly in Japan, and more recently in China, India, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. He admits to being strongly influenced by the sense of serenity and calmness in the Asian landscape. It harkens back to the essence of haiku poetry, the power of suggestion over description. “I’ve also looked at Asian calligraphy and traditional sumi-e paintings. These artworks have been very influential. My style has grown increasingly more minimal and sparse”.’
Main photograph: Wanaka Lake Tree, Study 1, Otago, New Zealand, 2013. Michael Kenna.
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