By Kepper Petzing | Contributing Writer
The artist behind the artist In his Concordia studio, Mark Silva is putting the final touches on a masterpiece, a photographic print created by internationally renowned landscape photographer Michael Kenna. It is likely destined for a major gallery or museum in one of a dozen countries.
Silva grew up in Oakland, CA. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2002. Kenna and Silva began their collaboration in 2000.
“We’re like an old married couple,” Mark says, “we finish each other’s sentences.” He compares their relationship to members of a band. “Michael is the lead singer and the lead guitarist. I play bass, hopefully keeping things together.”
The collaborative process
The process begins with Kenna wandering the globe creating photographs in the early morning hours or late into the night. He’s become known as the father of night photography, with exposures ranging from minutes to 12 or more hours. He uses medium format cameras, exclusively black-and-white film and all his photographs are printed by hand in a traditional optical darkroom.
Often photographing in mist, rain, or snow, Kenna says, “I prefer suggestion over description. The world is pretty chaotic, seemingly always speeding up and getting louder and more visually dense. I am interested in finding and creating calm shelters from the storm, places where quiet and solitude is encouraged and inner contemplation possible.”
Kenna develops every print by hand and when he has done all he can with camera and darkroom to achieve his vision, he turns it over to Silva to polish and perfect. Working with brush and ink, Silva ensures that there are no blemishes or unevenness in the background and removes unwanted objects or distractions.
“I’m Photoshop Version 0.0,” jokes Silva while performing his meticulous work under magnification. Every part of their process is by hand, so each print is unique. When done, Silva mounts the prints for display and distributes them to galleries and museums. Silva also helps edit Kenna’s books and organizes his exhibitions.
Local exhibit on display now
Kenna’s current exhibition, TREES 1973- 2023, will be on display at PLACE Galeria, 735 NW 18th Ave, through July 14th, M-F from 10-6. Silva will be there every Thursday from 4-6pm, to answer questions and share an additional 40 prints not on display.
“For 23 years I have made these exhibitions that travel far and wide, so I asked, ‘How about we do an exhibition in my town?’ Then I met the kind folks from PLACE and they were thrilled to host a Kenna exhibition. They said, ‘Tell us what walls you want and what color they should be and we’ll make them for you. So I had the creative freedom to sculpt a dream Kenna exhibition.”
Silva chose wild red walls and stark white walls and decided where each piece goes.
“I put the prints on the ground and started moving them around, until I got a photo poem that I liked. [The result] was one large poem with individual songs within.”
Silva has lived in Concordia since 2007, refusing to relocate because he loves our neighborhood and the small-town feel. For more information on Kenna’s photography, visit www. michaelkenna.com.
Kepper Petzing has lived in Concordia for 40 years where, with their partner Lowen, they raised two children. They love trees and Mark and Michael’s work.