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Learning From The Masters: Michael Kenna

“Learning from the Masters” is a regular series where I share useful lessons and wisdom we can learn from others, regardless of their medium. The important thing for me is how we can apply these lessons to photography, and to our lives as creative individuals.


I’ve written many times about the importance of defining why you photograph, what you’d like to say with the images you make, regardless of whether you achieve that or not. It focuses your attention and limits the distractions. You’re able to identify what speaks to you better. If there’s one photographer in the past 20 years that has developed a singular voice, it’s Michael Kenna.

Kenna is a landscape photographer that has a distinct personality and vision, and his images reveal that with out any doubt. When you see an image by Kenna, you recognize it immediately.

When asked what he’s trying to say with is work, Kenna has no hesitation:

“My work is about getting away from the chaos of this life. I find my work as it goes along becomes quieter, and simple in some ways, more stark, a little sparse, more haiku like…it almost becomes for me a place of  meditation, a place of calm, of solitude,…solace, it’s almost an oasis.”

That’s a rarity in todays photographic world, and Ted Forbes does a fantastic job of explaining that in this great video. Pay careful attention to Ted’s comments at the end where he talks about the importance of finding your voice, instead of simply emulating others. Difficult yes, but still worth pursuing.

I highly recommend you spend some time exploring Michael Kenna’s work and his approach to landscape photography.

RR Jr

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