Driving past Chichester on Wednesday last week, I couldn’t help dropping in to see more of Michael Kenna’s prints at the superb Bosham Gallery.
In my previous post I talked about my delight at the ‘Michael Kenna – 45 Retrospective Exhibition’ that was showing through the summer. They had followed it up with another featuring his work called ‘New and Rare Works’ running from 2nd to 28th September…so just a few days left to see it as I write this.
I was able to chat with the owner Luke Whittaker, who had obviously set up a very good relationship with Michael to get more prints personally produced by him to show. There were indeed some ‘New’ ones but also some that had ‘sold out’ of the artists 45 print editions. For these Michael had released ‘Artist Proofs’ from his archives.
I was bold over by one of his images taken in Hokkaido back in 2002. A picture I had never seen before.
I’ve finally made it to the wonderful 45 year retrospective exhibition of Michael Kenna’s work at the lovely little gallery at Bosham, near Chichester.
It was pleasing to see the care with which the owner Luke Whitaker and manager Angus Heywood had put into choosing and hanging the 42 prints from Michael’s years of image making since the 1970’s through to this year.
Michael has always been the most intelligent and thoughtful of photographers and you can’t help but notice how consistent his photographic style has been since his earliest days. Quite remarkable in fact to have distilled your ‘vision’ into something so long ago and not feel the need to change it, only to refine it.
I’ve been shooting long exposures of the moon ‘rising and setting’ ever since I went back to using a film camera, a few years ago now. I was taken with an image by, once again, Michael Kenna, of the moon rising over the Chausey Islands off the French coast. I realised that over the years I had photographed the moon many times, but never as a really, really long exposure. The magic that happens during an excessively long exposure is quite wonderful and Kenna had started a whole ‘minimalism movement’ in monochrome photography with his ‘frozen water’ and also his many images by moonlight. Others had done long exposures before but Kenna did lots of it and made some outstanding pictures…as he still does.
I do love trees, but their beauty is pretty hard to capture in photographs.
I feel much of monochrome photography is similar to producing ‘line drawings’ and one of my favourite artists producing really great pen and ink drawings of trees is Sarah Woolfenden.
Here’s one of her exquisitely detailed pictures, of a Yew:
Incredible detail in Sarah’s drawing. Sarah has the artists’ advantage over the photographer…she can ignore the background. Us poor people behind cameras haven’t got any easy ways to eliminate confusing backgrounds, so we often turn to choosing subjects where the background just doesn’t exist.
We all have influences and it’s only fair to recognise them, but hopefully move on to produce your own work and certainly not copy others.
However sometimes it’s thrilling to get as close to those ‘influencers’ as possible and one way a photographer can do this is by standing in the same spot and seeing…and hopefully feeling…something akin to that felt by your hero sometime before.
One of my great influences is Michael Kenna and in 1986, Kenna was in Halifax and took a photo reproducing a well known image of Bill Brandt’s,’ A snicket in Halifax’ taken by Brandt in 1937.
Here’s Brandt’s image, taken from his book ‘Shadow Of Light’ (Gordon Fraser):