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Title: I've always liked to photograph in "conditions"; mist, rain, snow, etc., where distracting backgrounds are eliminated or subdued.
Category: Person
Who: Glinn

Date: 2007-08-03 11:12

When Michael Kenna’s now-legendary book Japan was published in 2003, it was hailed as not only the most beautiful of the artist’s numerous publications, but also one of the most powerful and successful photographic works on place that has ever been published. In this monograph, Hokkaido, Kenna has refined his clarity of vision to a whole new level. The Northern Japanese island of Hokkaido has abundant natural forests, clear lakes, and magnificent mountains. It is perhaps best known for its intense and brutal winters. Snow and ice make many parts of the island inaccessible and the local Sea of Okhotsk routinely freezes over. Kenna has been photographing throughout Hokkaido, in these extreme conditions, for the past several years. The 84 photographs in this book are the result of his explorations. Beautifully printed on heavy, uncoated Japanese paper using special black inks, Hokkaido is bound in thin maple wooden boards and housed in a special slipcase. The book is designed by renowned Japanese designer Hideyuki Taguchi, and opens with an introduction by Daido Moriyama. Published to coincide with a major exhibition of Kenna’s work at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

Hardcover, 12 x 13,
104 pages, 84 plates.
ISBN 1-59005-139-4
(Item #139-4)

"I could blame it all on the karaoke bars, but that wouldn't be the whole story, although a part. I love the Japanese landscape. I am drawn to the omnipresent interactions between water and earth, the changing seasons and skies, the sense of history contained in the Japanese earth, and the engaging intimacy of scale in its terrain. Physically, Japan has similarities to my home county of England; small, reserved, lived in for centuries, surrounded by water, every patch of land or piece of waterfront seems to have a history, a story, an intimacy. Remains of the past are everywhere, resulting in an atmosphere that is palpable and, for me at least, highly photographic. There is a reverence for the land, symbolized by the torii gates, denoting entrances to a shrine. The shrine is often the landscape itself. The love story is long and I just skim the surface."


Michael Kenna, Torii Takaishima, Honshu, Japan, 2002, silver gelatin print,
courtesy of the artist and Stephen Wirtz Gallery.

This seemingly endless hillside fence in Teshikaga,  Japan, has been a recurring subject
during Kenna’s  many trips to the snowy island of Hokkaido.
“The stark, abstract line is always a little different,
and  I still find it fascinating to explore the subtle variations,” he says.

...In this monograph, Hokkaido, Kenna has refined his clarity of vision to a whole new level....

Michael Kenna, Lakeside Trees, Kusatsu, Honshu, Japan, 2003-2004

Michael Kenna's work is highly sought after throughout the world.
His small, delicate prints are like jewels.
Many of the photographs are time exposures made at night,
producing a soft surreal effect.

Michael Kenna, Six Blinds, Daisen-in Temple, Kyoto, Honshu, Japan, 2001,
Gelatin silver print, 7.5 x 7.5 in.,
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco

Dusk Island Shrine, Suttsu Hokkaido, Japan, 2002

Two Piers, Imazu, Honshu, Japan - 2001 2002

Hilltop Trees, Teshikaga, Hokkaido, Japan (2003) Michael Kenna

Michael Kenna, Afternoon Light, Shibecha, Hokkaido, Japan, 2004
gelatin silver print

Michael Kenna, Last Fence, Utoro, Hokkaido, Japan, 2005
gelatin silver print

Seaweed Pegs, 2002
Sugahama, Honshu, Japan
sepia toned gelatin silver print

Twenty Sticks, Kohoku, Honshu, Japan, 2003

Winter Seascape, Wakkanai, Hokkaido, Japan, 2004

"Forest Edge, Hokuto, Hokkaido, Japan," 2004/Courtesy G. Gibson Gallery

DE: How do you create images that are so simple, yet powerful?
MK: I've always liked to photograph in "conditions"; mist, rain, snow, etc., where distracting backgrounds are eliminated or subdued. Sunshine and blue sky have never appealed to me. Too much light tends to reveal all the details of a scene and I am not interested in a perfect photocopy. I prefer suggestion over description. I like to use the analogy of haiku poetry where just a few elements act as catalysts for one's imagination. Often I make long time exposures so that detailed water becomes floating mist, clouds in the sky become blurred masses of tonality and a populated scene becomes empty. The world is pretty chaotic, seemingly always speeding up and getting louder and more visually dense. I am interested in finding and/or creating calm shelters from the storm, places where quiet solitude is encouraged and inner contemplation is possible. I think we could all use a break from time to time!

Hashikui Rocks, Kushimoto, Honshu, Japan 2002

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