Michael Kenna | Paris
Michael Kenna donated 42 of this photographs of Paris to the city’s Musée Carnavalet last year. The museum already holds 17 other Kenna prints and is now exhibiting a selection of some fifty of their Kenna photographs.
The museum, which is devoted to the history of Paris, shows the photographer’s photos of Paris taken during several trips in the French capital from the 1980s onwards. The pictures reflects Kenna’s known’s aesthetic; high-contrast black-and-white landscapes, for which he requires exceedingly long exposure times.
Paris appears majestic, magical, frozen in time, from the booksellers along the Seine to the column of the Place Vendôme, the Eiffel Tower in all its forms, Notre Dame, the Palais Royal, the elevated trains, the many bridges and statues, the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries, where the leafless trees give the garden a dramatic look. The long exposure make the city city is ghostly, devoid of human presence.
Kenna reminds us of other Parisian photographers like Eugène Atget and he even pays homage to some of them in two 1992 photographs: “Île de la Cité (Merci HCB)” and “Pont-Neuf (Merci Brassaï).”
This exhibition coincides with the publication of new Kenna’s book “France”. The photographer first visited France in 1973 and has been photographing there since the early 1980’s. He has produced thousands of photographs on subjects such as Mont St. Michel, Le Notre’s Gardens, the Calais Lace Factories, and Chateau Lafitte Rothschild. FRANCE encompasses work from these projects and many others.
About Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna was born in Widnes, England in 1953. As one of 5 children born to a working class Irish-Catholic family, he initially aspired to enter the priesthood but his passion for the arts led him to The Banbury School of Art where he studied painting and then photography. Later he attended The London College of Printing and began working as a photographer and artist. He moved to San Francisco in 1977 where he was astounded by the number of galleries the city housed which allowed artists to showcase and sell their work.
Michael Kenna has described his body of work as, “more like a haiku rather than a prose”; his work being like photographs written in short poem form. Kenna’s photographs are often made at dawn or in the dark hours of night with exposures up to 10 hours. Kenna has said “you can’t always see what’s otherwise noticeable during the day… with long exposures you can photograph what the human eye is incapable to seeing”.
Michael Kenna’s prints have been shown in numerous exhibitions throughout the world with permanent collections in the Bibliothèque de France, Paris; The Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague; The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Kenna has also done a great deal of commercial work for such clients as Volvo, Rolls Royce, Audi, Sprint, Dom Perignon and The Spanish Tourist Board.