Flesh of Stone

Michael Kenna

The absent one in presence

“I have stated on numerous occasions that I do not include people in my photographs as I feel they gave away the scale and became the main focus of the viewer’s attention. Most of my photography relates to the presence of absence. However, fixed dogma is not a creative tool, and one should not be confined by a self described definition. I believe it is preferable to question, explore, and even change one’s mind on some aspects from time to time!”

Michael Kenna

Flesh of Stone

FLESH of STONE was born out of the encounter, some ten years ago, between the celebrated English photographer Michael Kenna and the French author and art critic Zoé Balthus. The writer invited the great artist to dig into his archives in search of the human figure, whose fleeting presence she had sometimes perceived in some of his minimalist black & white landscapes, to which he owes his international fame.

The intuition was right. In the course of decades of travel around the world, Michael Kenna was not been able to resist the statuary and its splendid human representations he had come across in gardens, parks, places of worship and memory. More than seventy analogue masterpieces were thus brought to light to compose FLESH of STONE.

“The photographs gathered in this book, singular in Kenna’s oeuvre and for the most part previously unpublished, converse together and summon the absent one in a resolutely physical, carnal, and emotional manner. The artist interprets wonderfully the paths of human destiny, grasping its essence with a sumptuously mastered black & white intensity.”

Zoé Balthus

“Michael Kenna is drawn to the vestiges of humankind’s activity within the natural world, to places where human action has ceased, or to places where forgetting has established itself—the abandoned cemetery, the lonely avenues of a park in winter. But out of what he finds there Kenna does not produce images of extinction or finitude, of what has passed, but rather what lives on through a presence which has not been properly recorded, the hidden life behind objects, as explored in the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke and Georges Rodenbach or the writings of Proust, until the moment Kenna’s lens endorses, emphasises that presence.”

Will Stone

FLESH of STONE is a collector art book, bilingual English-French, printed in 689 copies numbered by hand, bound and presented in a red embossed case.

  • 72 silver photographs, in black & white, by Michael Kenna
  • Foreword by Zoé Balthus, writer, art and literature critic, reporter
  • English translation by Blandine Longre, literature translator & Paul Stubbs, poet
  • Text by Will Stone, poet, essayist, literature translator
  • French translation by Zoé Balthus
  • Michael Kenna’s photographic portrait by Bruno Aveillan, film director and photographer