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Michael Khan Speaks of Ships and Sepia

Photographer Michael Khan writes:

9780762417742In 1995, I was invited to a lake in the Adirondack Mountains, New York. In the evening, the fog would settle on the lake. By the time I would take my hand-made wooden rowboat out on the water, the fog would be gently lifting. One day, in the mist of the coming morning, I came across a boat so unusual and beautiful in design that I felt compelled to photograph her. Hours later, the serenity of the morning shot was long forgotten, but the image was still there. I came home and didn’t know what to do with the portfolio. I did some research and learned an old recipe for sepia-toning the photographs that I had taken that day. After working in the darkroom and testing the new technique, I came up with a selection that I sent to the magazine Adirondack Life. Not long after, they contacted me and ending up running a six-page spread of these images. The Bow of the Idem (featured here in the picture behind me) was one from that day, and it marked the beginning of my nautical photography career.

Seldom in human history has something as beautiful and functional as the sailboat been created. It is lovely and graceful yet powerful and purposeful. The romance of the sail and the potential to capture the vessel is unlimited. From this perspective, I was driven to share the art that inhibits these time-captured treasures. I created this book (The Spirit of Sailing) to celebrate the joy of sailing and salute the preservation efforts of the passionate and dedicated people who perpetuate this time-honored pastime. We love sailing for its similitude of life itself- the memories of the storms and fog soon fade when the sun comes out and the wind blows fair. I hope my photographs allow these elements to live on where they can be treasured far beyond a fleeting moment of morning.


The Spirit of Sailing, in its fourth printing, features over 60 of Michael’s dramatic sepia-toned photographs of sailboats and water. This coffee volume book is eloquently set beside quotes in praise of sailing and the sea. With his 1950’s camera, Michael Kahn travels extensively to photograph the world’s finest boats and pristine seascapes. He collects his images on traditional black and white film and then produces luminous silver gelatin prints in his darkroom.

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