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MICHAEL KENNA
I gravitate towards places where humans have been and are no more, to the edge of man’s influence, where the elements are taking over or convering man’s traces. - Michael Kenna

Yes. The first time, I usually skim off the outer layer and end up with photographs that are fairly obvious. The second time, I have to look a little deeper. The images get more interesting. The third time it is even more challenging and on each subsequent occasion, the images should get stronger, but it takes more effort to get them. - Michael Kenna - On the question: "Do you like to work through things that way; to go back again and again photographing the same places. ..." from an interview conducted by Tim Baskerville for "Camera Darkroom", July 1995.

There are many characteristics associated with night photography that make it fascinating. We are used to working with a single light source, the sun, so multiple lights that come from an assortment of directions can be quite surreal, and theatrical. Drama is usually increased with the resulting deep shadows from artificial lights. These shadows can invite us to imagine what is hidden. I particularly like what happens with long exposures, for example, moving clouds produce unique areas of interesting density in the sky, stars and planes produce white lines, rough water transforms into ice or mist, etc. Film can accumulate light and record events that our eyes are incapable of seeing. The aspect of unpredictability inherent with night exposures can also be a good antidote for previsualization... - Michael Kenna - On the question: "Does photographing at night change your way of thinking about what you are photographing?" in "Photo Review" - January 2003 by Carole Glauber

When exposures last hours rather than fractions of a second, there is much time for watching. Sometimes it is a basic concern for security but at others it is a more meditational activity. I watch the sky and imagine what patterns the clouds and stars will make on my film. I watch the water, the leaves on the trees, passing cars, changing shadows, smoke from chimneys, whatever is around. Wind, rain, mist, etc., all have effects on the eventual image. We live pretty fast-paced lives so it is a luxury to be able to slow down and better appreciate some of the more subtle effects of nature that we can so easily miss or take for granted. - Michael Kenna - On the question: "In one of your books, you wrote, "I feel closer to the elements when I photograph at night, close to nature because I have to watch." What are you watching?" in "Photo Review" - January 2003 by Carole Glauber

Parks and gardens are the quintessential intimate landscapes. People use them all the time, leaving their energy and memories behind. It’s what’s left behind that I like to photograph. - Michael Kenna - in "Photographer's Forum Interview" - Winter 2003 by Claire Sykes

Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities. - Michael Kenna - in "Photographer's Forum Interview" - Winter 2003 by Claire Sykes

Life is about turning up. The more you get yourself out there, whether you wake up at 5:00 a.m. to pouring rain or not, the more you’re likely to experience the wonderful happenings that are going on all around you. Sometimes the most interesting visual phenomena occur when you least expect it. Other times, you think you’re getting something amazing and the photographs turn out to be boring and predictable. So I think that’s why, a long time ago, I consciously tried to let go of artist’s angst, and instead just hope for the best and enjoy it. I love the journey as much as the destination. If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d still be a traveler. - Michael Kenna - in "Photographer's Forum Interview" - Winter 2003 by Claire Sykes

I do have strong convictions and political opinions, but I don’t think it’s necessary to imbue my photographic work with them. I use photography as a vessel for visual material to flow through, to encourage conversation with the viewer. I try to present a catalyst and invite viewers to tell their own stories. - Michael Kenna - in "Photographer's Forum Interview" - Winter 2003 by Claire Sykes

Getting photographs is not the most important thing. For me it’s the act of photographing. It’s enlightening, therapeutic and satisfying, because the very process forces me to connect with the world. When you make four-hour exposures in the middle of the night, you inevitably slow down and begin to observe and appreciate more what’s going on around you. In our fast-paced, modern world, it’s a luxury to be able to watch the stars move across the sky. - Michael Kenna - in "Photographer's Forum Interview" - Winter 2003 by Claire Sykes

The photographer Ruth Bernhard used to tell me that this is like asking somebody how they evolved their signature. It is not something I’ve ever worked on consciously. I think style is just the end result of personal experience. It would be problematic for me to photograph in another style. I’m drawn to places and subject matter that have personal connections for me and I photograph in a way that seems right. Where does it all come from, who knows? - Michael Kenna - on the question: "How did you evolve your style?" in "WRAPAROUND" Interview Fall 2003 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Anne Telford

Photographing at night can be fascinating because we lose some of the control over what happens in front of the camera. Over a period of time the world changes; rivers flow, planes fly by, clouds pass and the earth's position relative to the stars is different. This accumulation of time and events, impossible for the human eye to take in, can be recorded on film. For the photographer, real can become surreal, which is exciting. During the day, when most photographs are made, scenes are usually viewed from the vantage-point of a fixed single light source, the sun. At night the light can come from unusual and multiple sources. There can be deep shadows which act as catalysts for our imagination. There is often a sense of drama, a story about to be told, secrets revealed, actors about to enter onto the stage. The night has vast potential for creativity. - Michael Kenna - in "WRAPAROUND" Interview Fall 2003 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Anne Telford

This goes back to what projects I am working on. I don’t have any particular method to my madness. When I decide “what” I want to photograph, I choose the appropriate locations. Sometimes I choose “where” I want to photograph, then look for the “what” when I get there! Simple - no magic involved. I have a theory, which seems to work for me, that the best ideas come through thinking about something else! One of my hobbies is long distance running. I find there is something therapeutic and hypnotic in this activity, similar to practicing landscape photography. While thinking about one thing, and being active at the same time, other ideas float in and out. These floating ideas usually turn out to be the catalysts for my future projects. - Michael Kenna - on the question: "How do you choose your locations?" - in "WRAPAROUND" Interview Fall 2003 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Anne Telford

In my photographic work I’m generally attracted to places that contain memories, history, atmospheres and stories. I’m interested in the places where people have lived, worked and played. I look for traces of the past, visual fingerprints, evidence of activities - they fire my imagination and connect into my own personal experiences. Using the analogy of the theater, I would say that I like to photograph the empty stage, before or after the performance, even in between acts. I love the atmosphere of anticipation, the feeling in the air that events have happened, or will happen soon... - Michael Kenna - in "WRAPAROUND" Interview Fall 2003 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Anne Telford

In my photography I try to be sensitive and responsive to whoever or whatever I meet. Everything else naturally follows. - Michael Kenna - in "WRAPAROUND" Interview Fall 2003 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Anne Telford

..As a boy in school, my twin subject areas of strongest interest were Mathematics and Art. Photography combines the two so I feel I’ve really landed on my feet. I originally wanted to be a painter - I seemed to be good in that medium, but I didn’t see myself surviving in England. I felt that I needed a way to make a living and photography is an ideal vehicle for both survival and personal expression. - Michael Kenna - On the question: "Were you drawn to the technical aspects of the medium from the beginning?" - in "PhotoWork Interview" - Premiere Issue 1997 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Dean Brierly

Perhaps most intriguing of all is that it is possible to photograph what is impossible for the human eye to see - cumulative time. - Michael Kenna - in "PhotoWork Interview" - Premiere Issue 1997 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Dean Brierly

I often think of my work as visual haiku. It is an attempt to evoke and suggest through as few elements as possible rather than to describe with tremendous detail. - Michael Kenna - in "PhotoWork Interview" - Premiere Issue 1997 / Vol. 1 No. 1 by Dean Brierly

Yes. It’s possible to think of photography as an act of editing, a matter of where you put your rectangle pull it out or take it away. Sometimes people ask me about films, cameras and development times in order to find out how to do landscape photography. The first thing I do in landscape photography is go out there and talk to the land – form a relationship, ask permission, it’s not about going out there like some paparazzi with a Leica and snapping a few pictures, before running off to print them. - Michael Kenna - On the question: "Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve said for years that far too many photographers tend to think of photography as an act of acquisitive rather than an act of submission" in "LensWork Interview" 10th Anniversary Issue No. 50 Dec. 03 - Jan. 04 by Brooks Jensen

..People ask me what lens do I use? I don’t even know, most times. They’ll ask what films I use? Well, it depends where I buy the film! If I’m in Japan I use Fuji because it happens to be readily available in Japan. If I’m in France I’ll buy Agfa, Ilford or Kodak. I find that when one has worked long enough, technical know-how becomes almost irrelevant. In photography, it’s not difficult to reach a technical level where you don’t need to think about the technique any more. I think there is far too much literature and far too much emphasis upon the techniques of photography. The make of camera and type of film we happen to use has little bearing on the results. - Michael Kenna - On the question: "So, you’ve essentially structured the practical and pragmatic part of your production process to make it interfere as little as possible with your creative life" in "LensWork Interview" 10th Anniversary Issue No. 50 Dec. 03 - Jan. 04 by Brooks Jensen

..I sincerely believe it is normal and healthy to study the work of other artists, and even imitate other’s efforts, as a means to explore one’s personal vision. It has been thus throughout history in all mediums of creative expression. One advances by “standing on the shoulders of giants”. The perspective becomes a lot clearer from such high ground. On my own journey, I have actively tried to see through the eyes of many well known photographers, including but not limited to Atget, Bernhard, Brandt, Callahan, Cartier Bresson, Giacomelli, Misrach, Scheeler, Steiglitz, Sudek, Sugimoto, Weston (Brett) and many others. I have gone to places where they have photographed and have consciously and unconsciously emulated their style and subject matter. Other artists, in many mediums, have greatly helped my own development as a photographer. As small tokens of appreciation, I have often credited those influences openly by including their names in the titles of work. I have done this out of basic courtesy and respect. I do not feel that I have ever stolen from these artists. - Michael Kenna - See: http://greenteagallery.net/magazine/2010/04/25/kenna-on-plagiarism/

We see in colour all the time. Everything around us is in colour. Black and white is therefore immediately an interpretation of the world, rather than a copy. - Michael Kenna

The golden rule in the arts, as far as I am concerned, is that all rules are meant to be broken. - Michael Kenna

There are many aspects about what and why we photograph: visual pleasure, personal empathy, intellectual stimulation, technical excellence, etc. Serious photographers and artists will try to create works that are original. Over a career period they may develop a singular identity in their images. - Michael Kenna

Essentially, I look for what is interesting to me, out there in the three-dimensional world, and translate or interpret so that it becomes visually pleasing in a two-dimensional photographic print. I search for subject matter with visual patterns, interesting abstractions and graphic compositions. - Michael Kenna

Time is of the essence, particularly if we're sending images out on social media. The reality is that the majority of images are only viewed for a few seconds, often on a phone or computer. There are so many images freely available that it takes a lot of will power to concentrate and prolong the gaze on one picture at the expense of the thousands of others waiting to be viewed! - Michael Kenna

There is no one way of photographing anything. I don't believe there is even one best way of photographing any given subject. - Michael Kenna

I encourage playfulness and experimentation with both the camera and subject matter. Sometimes there is an obvious perspective, but it is important never to be satisfied with that. - Michael Kenna

If the quality of professional materials continues to erode or even dries up, then many of us silver photographers would have to follow the digital tidal wave. It certainly wouldn't be the end of the world, but in my opinion, having no silver material available would be a huge loss to photography. - Michael Kenna

Approaching subject matter to photograph is like meeting a person and beginning a conversation. How does one know ahead of time where that will lead, what the subject matter will be, how intimate it will become, how long the potential relationship will last? Certainly, a sense of curiosity and a willingness to be patient to allow the subject matter to reveal itself are important elements in this process. - Michael Kenna

Different assignments, different places, require different approaches. Sometimes I take minutes in a location, at other times days. There are many places that I have returned to over several years. When I photograph, I look for some sort of resonance, connection, spark of recognition. - Michael Kenna

Craft is important, but cameras for their own sake are not. A sense of aesthetics, a connection with the subject matter, an enquiring and an inquisitive mind, these factors outweigh whatever equipment we use. - Michael Kenna

One needs to fully accept that surprises sometimes happen and complete control over outcome is not necessary or even desirable. - Michael Kenna

As a landscape photographer we should be open to possibilities, for one thing often leads to another. - Michael Kenna

Everybody now has a camera, whether it is a professional instrument or just part of a phone. Landscape photography is a pastime enjoyed by more and more. Getting it right is not an issue. It is difficult to make a mistake with the sophisticated technology we now have. Making a personal and creative image is a far greater challenge. - Michael Kenna

There can be no doubt that probability increases with practice. Fortune favours the brave, fortune favours the prepared mind, and fortune favours those who work the hardest. - Michael Kenna

Of course, the whole photographic process has been made much faster, cleaner and far more accessible to people by digital innovations, which is really great. Everybody now has a camera, often as part of our phone, and most of these cameras require little to no technical training. An enormous variety of apps also enable us to take short cuts to finished images. We hardly need to even think anymore. - Michael Kenna

Instant gratification in photography is not something that I need or desire. I find that the long, slow journey to the final print captivates me far more. - Michael Kenna

The photographer Ruth Bernhard used to tell me that this is like asking somebody how they evolved their signature. It is not something I've ever worked on consciously. I think style is just the end result of personal experience. It would be problematic for me to photograph in another style. I'm drawn to places and subject matter that have personal connections for me and I photograph in a way that seems right. Where does it all come from, who knows? - Michael Kenna

For me, this is one of the advantages of not using digital, I never know when I have a good photograph! I practice doubt as a way to push myself into alternative compositions by selective focus, different speeds of exposure, and unusual perspectives. - Michael Kenna

Most of my work involves slowing down rather than speeding up. I prefer to look at prints than scans, and I prefer to look at original silver prints rather than digital prints. I prefer to look at fewer images, but spend time with those individual images. - Michael Kenna

I would strongly encourage anybody embarking on photography as a career to embrace and enjoy the whole process. Being a photographer can be a wonderful way to experience the world. - Michael Kenna

I believe that we photographers don't benefit very much with answers from other photographers. What is more beneficial is to ask questions of ourselves and see what thoughts float out from within. - Michael Kenna

There are many aspects about what and why we photograph: visual pleasure, personal empathy, intellectual stimulation, technical excellence, etc. Serious photographers and artists will try to create works that are original. Over a career period they may develop a singular identity in their images. - Michael Kenna

I believe that every photographer, every artist, should choose materials and equipment based on their own vision. I don't believe that non-digital is necessarily better than digital, or the reverse for that matter. They are just different, and it is my preference and choice to remain with the traditional silver process, at least for the time being. - Michael Kenna

Easier is not necessarily better. - Michael Kenna

I enjoy places that have mystery and atmosphere, perhaps a patina of age, a suggestion rather than a description, a question or two. I look for memories, traces, evidence of the human interaction with the landscape. Sometimes I photograph pure nature, sometimes urban structures. - Michael Kenna

If I had to give advice to other photographers, I would first suggest quickly getting over the camera equipment questions. In my humble opinion, the make and format of a camera is ultimately low on the priority scale when it comes to making pictures. - Michael Kenna

I try not to make conscious decisions about what I am looking for. I don't make elaborate preparations before I go to a location. Essentially I walk, explore, discover and photograph. - Michael Kenna

We all have choices and must make them for ourselves. - Michael Kenna

Beauty is very much in the mind of the beholder. - Michael Kenna

My advice to any budding artist is never to be satisfied with imitating others. This is but a means to an end. A serious artist will work with intensity to discover themselves, their own personal vision. I believe this is a fundamental aspect of the creative path. - Michael Kenna

I don't think it is even possible to define what a good photograph is, so it is difficult to instruct anybody how to make one. Beauty and aesthetics are subjective, and very much in the mind of the beholder. - Michael Kenna

I prefer to think of photography as a never ending journey with infinite possibilities. I love to return to places to re photograph. Nothing is ever the same. The options are endless. - Michael Kenna

In my photographic work I'm generally attracted to places that contain memories, history, atmospheres and stories. I'm interested in the places where people have lived, worked and played. I look for traces of the past, visual fingerprints, evidence of activities - they fire my imagination and connect into my own personal experiences. Using the analogy of the theater, I would say that I like to photograph the empty stage, before or after the performance, even in between acts. I love the atmosphere of anticipation, the feeling in the air that events have happened, or will happen soon. - Michael Kenna

I believe that photographers should be passionate, determined, disciplined and ready to seek out their own styles and identities. - Michael Kenna

I don't have anything against colour. It is just not my first preference. I have always found black and white photographs to be quieter and more mysterious than those made in colour. - Michael Kenna

The golden rule in the arts, as far as I am concerned, is that all rules are meant to be broken. - Michael Kenna

For me, the subtlety of black and white inspires the imagination of the individual viewer to complete the picture in the mind's eye. It doesn't attempt to compete with the outside world. I believe it is calmer and gentler than colour, and persists longer in our visual memory. - Michael Kenna

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