Still using film - still in the darkroom!
I first saw a Michael Kenna print at a photography club event. I was spell bound, my jaw dropped at such amazing simplistic work of beauty. I immediately went out and bought his renowned book of work called "Japan", which is superbly bound in red cloth with a Japanese folding slip case!
So to get a reply from Michael to my invitation to join me on the show, saying " this sounds like fun what do I have to do?" was simply amazing. I can't tell you how busy he is at this time. In between travelling to various exhibitions of his work, his book signing events and also making prints in his darkroom he found time to join me to talk about his career, his photography and his experiences.
Experiences from the time he decided not to become a Catholic Priest but to follow his love of the arts and study printing and photography. Experiences of travelling to America, of being a delivery boy, of working, working in shops, frame making and then to finally get a chance to work for Ruth Bernhard. Working for Ruth opened his eyes to the business of commercial and fine art photography. He printed her work and had an exceptional working relationship with her. In fact she is his 'inspiration' as he says at the end of the show.
Michael, with respect, is one of the old school... 'There's still some of us out there!' he says. Using film cameras. His preferred camera is the Hasselblad using lenses between 40 and 200mm (equiv. to 24-150mm in 35mm terms) but he has been known to just walk the city with a Holga. Yes a plastic camera and lens. ( A one camera one lens photographer) Why the Hasselblad? Well its a camera that was used on the moon. Totally reliable, no battery, all mechanical, built to withstand severe weather conditions and use. Except maybe being dropped in a lake! He still works in a darkroom doing all his own printing. This part he doesn't pass onto a printing service, he's not comfortable about that preferring to finish what he started. Yet leaving the process of the film to several companies around the world is a regular practice for him. Two reasons for this. He finds the processing of film tedious and also this doesn't effect the transport of the film through the scanners at various airports. He prefers to buy his film in the country he is working in, and is happy to try any film but if there was one he'd prefer it would be the Kodak Tri-X. Colour photography has never 'tickled his fancy' so to speak and he has no interest in Digital cameras or editing on computers at all.
I was surprised to learn that he sometimes is printing today an image for the very first time that was originally taken many years ago. His latest book 'France" is made up of many images that were taken many years ago but have only just been released through this book.
His favourite photographer would be Bill Brandt, although there are many greats he loves to look at.
And then it was time, he had to get back to his work in the darkroom, after all he was 3/4 of the way through a print. It was all over too soon for me.
Until next time "Leave your camera bag at home"
The all important links...
For Michael Kenna
His website where all details of books prints exhibitions other interviews can be found.