“There is something magically seductive about a creative process that is not fully in our control,” Michael Kenna says of his work, particularly his night photographs.
Not that his work seems out of control. Perhaps that’s because, as he points out, “It really doesn’t take long to figure out how to photograph at night.” (Kenna says his exposures range between a few seconds and many hours.) Still, many photo afficionados have indeed found something magical about his images—he’s represented by some 17 galleries throughout the world, has published more than 30 books, and recently had 30-year retrospectives on multiple continents.
Kenna attributes the lack of full control to the unpredictability of lengthy exposures. “While the shutter stays open,” he says, “objects and elements may move at any time, and the Earth is moving all the time relative to the planets and stars. Contrast may shift due to reciprocity failure and the idiosyncrasies of particular films. Weather conditions may vary or change dramatically during the exposure. Light can appear in many forms and from unforeseen and multiple directions.”