Michael Kenna Biography: Education, Career, Awards And More

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Michael Kenna
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Michael Kenna, the distinguished English photographer born in 1953, has carved a niche in the realm of black and white landscapes. Renowned for his distinctive approach, Kenna’s work dances between ethereal light, extended exposures, and the interplay of nature and human-made structures. Let’s embark on a visual journey through the life and lens of this photographic maestro.

Personal Stats for Michael Kenna

Full NameMichael Kenna
Date of Birth1953
State of OriginLancashire, England
BirthplaceWidnes, Lancashire, England
ParentsIrish-Catholic family (details not specified)
OccupationPhotographer
NationalityEnglish
Alma MaterBanbury School of Art, London College of Printing

Early Life And Education

Born in 1953 in Widnes, Lancashire, England, Kenna’s artistic odyssey sprouted from humble roots. Raised in a working-class Irish-Catholic family, he initially pursued a path to priesthood, attending seminary school until the age of 17. A detour into art revealed Kenna’s true calling, leading him to the Banbury School of Art and eventually the London College of Printing, graduating in 1976 with a focus on commercial photography.

Transition To Photography

In 1977, Kenna made a pivotal move to San Francisco, where his encounter with Ruth Bernhard proved transformative. Serving as Bernhard’s printer for eight years, Kenna delved into the nuances of the printing process, shaping his creative identity.

Photographic Style And Techniques

Kenna’s hallmark lies in photographing unusual landscapes with a unique emphasis on ethereal light. Employing Hasselblad medium format and Holga cameras since 1986, his exposures, often spanning up to 10 hours, result in captivating monochrome compositions. The square format dominates his portfolio, with exceptions such as “Monique’s Kindergarten,” shot with a large format camera.

Global Recognition And Collections

Kenna’s work has traversed continents, exhibited in galleries and museums across Asia, Australia, and Europe. His photographs find a permanent residence in esteemed collections like the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Notable Publications

Numerous books encapsulate Kenna’s diverse subjects, ranging from the industrial landscapes of “The Rouge” in Dearborn, Michigan, to the serene snow-covered expanses of Hokkaido, Japan. His acclaimed publications include “Night Walk,” “Easter Island,” “Calais Lace,” and the poignant “Impossible to Forget: The Nazi Camps Fifty Years After.”

Awards and Honors

Michael Kenna’s contributions to photography have garnered prestigious awards, including the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters bestowed by the French Ministry of Culture in 2000. Other accolades include the Imogen Cunningham Award, the Golden Saffron Award in Spain, and the Hae-sun Lee Photography Award in Korea.

Recent Works and Future Endeavors

As Kenna continues to push artistic boundaries, recent publications like “Abruzzo” and “One Sunday in Beijing” underscore his global exploration. The upcoming “Trees” and “Photographs and Stories” promise new chapters in Kenna’s ongoing narrative.


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