Exhibition Dates:

12 May - 15 July 2023

The McQueen
3622 S. Morgan Street
Chicago, IL 60609


We are excited to feature the works of legendary photographer and printer, Michael Kenna whose photographs are held in the permanent collections of over 100 leading museums worldwide.

In the beginning, Michael worked as the assistant and printer for the renowned photographer Ruth Bernhard, making prints in her kitchen darkroom, under her supervision, along with endless conversations that shaped his approach to his craft. Michael learned a great deal from Ruth. Particularly impressive to him was the creativity she had with the negatives to achieve compositional and tonal precision. As Michael says, “a good print should demand to be observed, constantly.”

Michael has a distinctively unique minimalist quality to the composition of his images. He takes a very deliberative and reflective path for his images enjoying slowly setting up, considering, observing, and thinking before he photographs. He has used the same medium format analog film cameras for almost 40 years and all his images are done on film preferring the “long, slow journey of the sliver medium”. Several of his images are captured on multi-hour-long exposures, loving the long exposures where he waits and contemplates. During long time-exposures, the real can become surreal.

What differentiates Michael from so many photographers is that he doesn’t just take the photograph Michael makes every print himself, in his own darkroom, burning and dodging to perfect the balance and produce these jewel-like images. As Michael says, “a good print should demand to be observed, constantly.” This process for half a century is truly unique in its consistency; photographs taken in ’70’s are indistinguishable from a photograph taken today all glowing to their fullest potential with Michael’s patient, attentive and caring process. Old-school he knows – but truly the work of a rare master.


(1953 - Present)

Michael Kenna’s mysterious photographs, often made at dawn or in the dark hours of night, concentrate primarily on the interaction between the natural landscape and human-made structures. Kenna is both a diurnal and nocturnal photographer, fascinated by light when it is most pliant. With long time-exposures, which might last throughout the night, his photographs often record details that the human eye is not able to perceive. Kenna is particularly well-known for the intimate scale of his photography and his meticulous personal printing style.

He works in the traditional, non-digital, silver photographic medium. His exquisitely hand crafted black and white prints, which he makes in his own darkroom, reflect a sense of refinement, respect for history, and thorough originality. During Kenna’s forty-six-year career, his photographs have been shown in over four hundred and fifty one-person gallery and museum exhibitions throughout the world and are included in over a hundred permanent institutional collections. Seventy-five monographs and exhibition catalogs have been published on Kenna’s work.

Michael Kenna’s quiet approach to the environment provides a glimpse into the provocative and subtle serenity of landscape photography. Michael creates dream-like scenes by combining innovative and traditional photographic techniques. The results are soft, stark, enigmatic views of gardens, industrial sites, land, and seascapes from around the world. His photographs suggest contemplation and a poetic vision. Michael is equally dedicated to the darkroom and makes his own prints ensuring a subdued, intimate atmosphere in every image.

Michael grew up in the industrial northwest of England and studied at the Banbury School of Art and the London College of Printing, graduating with distinction in 1976. In London, Michael undertook advertising photography while pursuing his personal work – photographing the landscape. In 1977, he moved to San Francisco, where he met Ruth Bernhard and became her assistant and photographic printmaker for eight years. In 2000, the French government honored with the award of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.