I'm content with my lot, which means there are not many people in this world I envy…except of course the privileged few who discover Michael Kenna's work for the first time.
It's too far back to recall when I initially saw one of Kenna's photobooks but it was probably his Twenty Year Retrospective first published in 1994 by Nazraeli. I'm also ashamed to confess that I can no longer remember the saint who gave it to me. One thing's for certain though, I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for the lifetime's enjoyment and contemplation they opened up for me.
Until recently when I was in the same position and wanted to introduce a photographer to Kenna's work then I'd also suggest one of his retrospectives, but I'll think twice now and probably recommend this book instead because it's such a rewarding and affordable place to begin. With many of Kenna's books now costing £50 and beyond, the main merit of Forms of Japan for the lucky newcomer is its price given the significant number of images and the reasonable print and paper quality.
For the dedicated Kenna follower, the downsides are that quite a number of the images are already in other books where they are often printed to a higher standard. Another distraction is that a small number of the photographs in Forms of Japan go across the fold, but there's enough previously unpublished work to justify adding it to the collection.
Selecting which is the finest of Kenna's many photobooks would be a tough if not impossible choice and although Forms of Japan is good, it's not one of the best. But the 300 pages provide an excellent introduction to Kenna's quiet aesthetic plus the sheer depth of his creative output from Japan.