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Michael Kenna’s Japan: A Visual Symphony of Serenity and Timeless Beauty

In “Japan: A Love Story,” Michael Kenna transports us into the tranquil and ethereal landscapes of Japan through his masterful black-and-white photography. Each image, meticulously composed and imbued with a sense of reverence, invites viewers to experience the profound beauty and serenity of the Japanese environment. From the majestic peaks of Mount Fuji to the delicate blossoms of Kyoto, Kenna’s work captures the essence of Japan with unparalleled sensitivity and poetic vision. This exhibition is a testament to Kenna’s deep connection with the land, offering a meditative journey that lingers long after leaving the gallery.



Michael Kenna’s exhibition “Japan: A Love Story” is an evocative journey into the serene and ethereal landscapes of Japan, captured with unparalleled sensitivity and poetic vision. This collection, displayed with meticulous curation, transcends the ordinary, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the profound tranquility and timeless beauty of the Japanese environment.

Kenna, renowned for his mastery in black-and-white photography, demonstrates an extraordinary ability to evoke emotion through minimalist compositions and meticulous attention to detail. Each photograph in this exhibition is a testament to his deep connection with Japan, portraying its landscapes not merely as scenes but as narratives imbued with a sense of reverence and intimacy. The images, often shrouded in mist or blanketed in snow, convey a dreamlike quality, where the boundaries between reality and imagination blur seamlessly.

The exhibition opens with a striking series of images capturing the iconic Mount Fuji. Kenna’s depiction of this revered peak is nothing short of majestic. The interplay of light and shadow, the subtle gradations of grey, and the serene calmness of the scenes reflect a deep spiritual engagement with the subject. These photographs are not just visual representations but meditative experiences, drawing the viewer into a contemplative state.

Sanuki Fuji, Kagawa, Shikoku, Japan; courtesy the Peter Fetterman Gallery

As one progresses through the gallery, the diversity of Japan’s landscapes unfolds in a harmonious flow. Kenna’s portrayal of ancient temples, delicate cherry blossoms, and serene coastal scenes highlights his versatility and profound understanding of his medium. His photographs of the Torii gates at dawn, bathed in soft, diffused light, are particularly compelling. They encapsulate the essence of Japanese culture, blending nature and spirituality in a visual symphony.

One of the most captivating aspects of Kenna’s work is his ability to infuse stillness with a dynamic sense of movement. This is evident in his images of rippling water and gently swaying bamboo groves. The textures and contrasts in these photographs are so finely tuned that they seem to transcend the two-dimensional plane, offering a tactile experience that is both intimate and expansive.

Philosopher’s Tree, Study 3, Biei, Hokkaido, 2009; Courtesy the Peter Fetterman Gallery.

Kenna’s use of long exposures is a defining feature of his style, creating images that feel timeless and eternal. The exhibition’s centerpiece, a mesmerizing photograph of a solitary pine tree standing against a backdrop of swirling mist, epitomizes this technique. The tree, rendered with exquisite detail, appears almost mythical, a guardian of the landscape, its presence both enduring and ephemeral.

The ethereal quality of Kenna’s work is further exemplified in his series on Kyoto’s Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The towering bamboo stalks, captured in long exposure, create a visual rhythm that is both soothing and hypnotic. The delicate play of light filtering through the dense foliage adds a layer of mystique, transforming the grove into an enchanted forest.

Another highlight of the exhibition is Kenna’s portrayal of Japan’s coastal regions. His photographs of the rugged Izu Peninsula are breathtaking. The interplay of jagged rocks and crashing waves, juxtaposed with the calm, misty horizon, creates a compelling contrast that is both dramatic and serene. These images, rich in texture and detail, convey the raw beauty and power of the natural world.

Field of Sticks, Kamikawa, Hokkaido, Japan, 2023; Courtesy the Peter Fetterman Gallery

Kenna’s work on the snow-covered landscapes of Hokkaido is particularly noteworthy. His photographs of the minimalist, almost monochromatic scenes evoke a sense of purity and stillness. The solitary trees and undulating snowdrifts, captured in stark black and white, are rendered with a delicate touch that emphasizes their fragile beauty. These images are a testament to Kenna’s ability to find profound beauty in simplicity.

In addition to landscapes, Kenna’s exploration of Japanese architecture is equally captivating. His images of traditional Shinto shrines and Zen gardens are infused with a sense of reverence and tranquility. The meticulous composition and subtle use of light highlight the harmony and balance inherent in these structures, offering a glimpse into the spiritual essence of Japanese culture.

Old Landing Stage, Kinki, Honshu, Japan, 2023; Courtesy the Peter Fetterman Gallery

“Japan: A Love Story” is not merely an exhibition; it is an invitation to see the world through Kenna’s eyes. His profound connection to Japan is evident in every frame, each one a love letter to the land that has clearly inspired and moved him. This collection is a masterclass in the art of photography, offering a profound and moving experience that lingers long after one has left the gallery.

In a world that often feels frenetic and fragmented, Kenna’s work provides a much-needed sanctuary of calm and contemplation. This exhibition is a must-see for anyone seeking to understand the deeper, more poetic aspects of photography and, indeed, the soul of Japan itself. Through his lens, Michael Kenna has created not just images, but a timeless narrative that speaks to the heart and soul, a true love story that is both personal and universal.