on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

In the Realm of Spirit

"Seaworks" by Paul Kenny & "Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit" by Paul Martineau

David Ward

T-shirt winning landscape photographer, one time carpenter, full-time workshop leader and occasional author who does all his own decorating.


When the photograph is a mirror of the man, and the man is a mirror of the world, then Spirit might take over.
Minor White

It is said that the eye has independently evolved between 50 and 100 times. Evolutionary biologists have long recognised that genetically diverse life forms can converge on the same solution to an opportunity presented by their environment. The case for convergent evolution has also been made for flight, fur and sex – sometimes referred to facetiously as the three ‘f’s. A similar convergence might be supposed for many kinds of art, with geographically and even philosophically disconnected artists independently arriving at similar stylistic approaches.

Of course, artists cannot claim to be as unaware of their fellows as the octopus is as ‘unaware’ of the land vertebrates’ convergent evolution of the eye. After all, artists live in a milieu of shared ideas - and in the Internet era these ideas can be rapidly disseminated. Artists with common aims or ideals will often group together into a ‘school’ (such as the Cubists or Impressionists),

But sometimes artists with different aims do independently produce superficially similar images. So it is with the some of the works of Minor White and Paul Kenny. There are, however, even for the most similar images, important differences in technique and approach. Most obviously, Kenny ‘creates’ his images - sculpting them from ‘ingredients’ specific to a location - whereas White worked with the found. Having said that, both are attempting to make the specific stand for the generic, the literal for the metaphorical. They are both striving to make photos that are allegorical and symbolic. It seems to me, that any passing stylistic or formal similarity is less relevant than this coincidentally shared intent. In their own ways, each photographer is attempting to appeal to a sense of spirit. For White, I believe, this is the spirit of Man and for Kenny the spirit of place. More on this anon…


The recent publication of Seaworks by Paul Kenny and Manifestations of the Spirit by Paul Martineau has prompted me to try and delineate the two artists points of contact. I’ll try to draw out the similarities between some of their images but also attempt to place their work within a larger historical and artistic context.

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