Michael Kenna | The Rouge [USA] 1992-1995

Michael Kenna is an English photographer born in 1953. Kenna’s photography, mostly black and white, focuses on unusual landscapes with ethereal light achieved by photographing at dawn or at night with really long exposures times. Sometimes it takes about 10 houres of exposure to get the gosthly touch of his images. This serie called The Rouge reminds us the industrial northwest of England’s landscapes, where he was born.

The Ford River Rouge Complex (commonly known as the Rouge Complex or just The Rouge) is a Ford Motor Company automobile factory complex located in Dearborn, Michigan. Construction began in 1917, and when it was completed in 1928 it had become the largest integrated factory in the world.

From the wiki, about The Rouge Complex:

With its own docks in the dredged Rouge River, 100 miles (160 km) of interior railroad track, its own electricity plant, and ore processing, the titanic Rouge was able to turn raw materials into running vehicles within this single complex, a prime example of vertical-integration production. Over 100,000 workers were employed there in the 1930s.

Some of the Rouge buildings were designed by Albert Kahn. His Rouge glass plant was regarded at the time as an exemplary and humane factory building, with its ample natural light coming through windows in the ceiling. More recently, several buildings have been converted to “green” structures with a number of environmentally friendly features. However, many vehicular skeletons remain buried on the grounds of the Rouge.

In an interview done by Tim Baskerville, Kenna answers to the following question “You were raised in the industrial north of England. What impact do you think your early years there had on your photography?” in these terms:

I think a very strong impact; for example, it gave me a certain empathy for industry and the working environment which is one reason why I am constantly drawn to photograph industrial situations. Although I was brought up in an urban environment, my first photographs in the early seventies were of the landscape. In retrospect, I suppose that I had automatically labeled the landscape as “beautiful” and industry as “ugly,” and naively considered the former subject matter more worthy of being photographed. A return to industry was inevitable and I have since worked on a number of specifically industrial projects, for example: The Ratcliffe Power Station, Avonmouth Docks, and The Rouge. Structures have always played a big part in my work. I’m really not at home photographing in the “wild” landscape, deserts or mountainous areas. I look at those places with great awe, but I can’t seem to photograph them. [laughs] I came from a working class background, and I was brought up knowing that I had to survive in the world – that helped me to became a photographer. In my early years I was good in the arts, painting in particular, and that’s what I wanted to do at the time. However, after spending some time at The Banbury School of Art, I realized that there wasn’t a chance I would survive as a painter living in England. I studied photography in part because I knew I could at least attempt a living doing commercial and advertisingwork. The more personal work could always be done as a hobby, as it was done for many years.

You can see more of Kenna’s work at his web-site and read the complte interview by Tim Baskerville at The Nocturnes.


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