Michael Kenna was my introduction to fine-art photography. I found his work when looking into well-known landscape photographers for inspiration, and I fell in love with those calming, minimalist shapes almost instantly. He is one of my favourite photographers, and today I want to talk about why, as well as share some work I’ve done over the course of this week that has been inspired by him.
His attitude toward photography is that of patience, often spending hours making a single exposure. I have found that I enjoy photography the most when I can take my time about it, and I feel that Kenna is the same. The passion and drive he shows for perfection in his shots, often returning to the same place again and again to make these beautiful long exposures, has inspired me. To me, my photography is a place where I can go to be by myself with my thoughts, collecting focus and exercising creativity in a way that is not constrained by the expectations of others. I find Kenna a calming influence in that respect, because his images provide a world into which the viewer can step to be alone in an almost unreal scene.
He regularly revisits places he has photographed before, especially in France. While I try my best to find new and interesting subjects, I often find myself revisiting some places in York, like the Shambles, the Minster and the university campus. Kenna is proof to me that you don’t have to be constantly looking for a change of scene to provide interest – a lot of the time you can find interest in reinterpreting what you already know.
I’ve been on campus a lot over this past week, because we started lectures, and I wanted to try photographing the area. Because I spend a lot of time here, I sometimes feel that it’s an uninteresting subject, but I know that the reason for that feeling is simply familiarity. In these images I’ve tried to approach campus in a way that I don’t often consider.
The mist obscures the background in all of these images, lending them an air of mystery, which I find draws me into the frame, and the flat white fog provides a sense of calming openness. In #02 and #04 the reflections in the frozen lake provides symmetry, and the obscured trees in most of the images give a hint of form, but still leave the viewer wondering. I’m really happy with all of these, and wish the fog would last a few more days so I can get another 10 images and put them in a photobook!
Uni life can be hectic sometimes. I realise that I might have a slow pace of life by the standards of some, but it can be stressful. In part, photography is a way out of that for me, and I think that’s why the work of Michael Kenna speaks so much to me. In a world of high expectations, of assessment and stress, these images are a space in which to breathe.