Franco Fontana – Horizons
Musée de la Photographie, Nice, France; 1 June – 30 September 2018

I visited this exhibition a few months ago but hadn’t got around to writing about it as I hadn’t quite worked out where it fit into my studies – I got something out of it but was struggling to articulate how it related to my own work (or rather my aspirations for my own work). But of course, it is indeed connected. Everything’s connected.

It took a different body of work by a different photographer – William Eggleston’s The Democratic Forest, about which I will write shortly – for me to join the dots. Eggleston is the stepping stone between what I see in Fontana’s work and how I want my own work to be.

Fontana was born in 1933 in Modena, Italy and practiced from the early 1960s. His specialism is the interplay of colour with space, form and light, shooting landscapes (rural and urban) in ways that render them almost abstract.

Many of his images resemble paintings, or look as though they have been constructed or manipulated like pieces of graphic design work, but they are all as shot, in camera.

“Creativity does not mean photographing what is, but what we imagine there to be”
(Fontana, exhibition catalogue 2018)

What I really like about Fontana’s work in this exhibition is that it distils down scenes to the barest components of shape and colour, yet still manages to get across a sense of the landscape; from the natural slopes and curves of his 1970s rural landscape work to the almost Mondrian-esque geometry of his later urban architectural work in Paesaggio Urbano.

Main takeaways

His work is a fantastic example of seeing extraordinary scenes in the everyday environment – he apparently often refers to the world as being his photographic studio. When you admire Fontana’s work, I think what you’re admiring is the distinctive way he sees the world; it’s like an insight into how his eyes and his brain work.

What I eventually realised is that, setting aside the distinctive aesthetic, there is one particular aspect of Fontana’s work that relates to my evolving practice: seeing the outside world, the ‘found environment’, in ways that makes it look somehow unusual, that make the viewer look (and think) again.

Looking back over this exhibition (and a few of the photo books I’m currently studying) I am reminded of a phrase that Fred Ritchin used in After Photography, a book I have been finding useful for my Contextual Studies essay:

“… one of photography’s strongest suits [is] its ability to see in ways that humans cannot, and to find emerging rhythms of life that people may sense but cannot focus upon”
(Ritchin 2009: 44)

Fontana seems to be able to see in a way that mere mortals can’t, until he shows them.


Sources

Photographer site: http://francofontanaphotographer.com/

Exhibition site: http://museephotographie.nice.fr/expo/fontana/

Franco Fontana – Horizons. Musée de la Photographie, Nice, France; 1 June – 30 September 2018

Eggleston, W. (2016) The Democratic Forest – Selected Works. Göttingen: Steidl

Ritchin, F. (2009) After Photography. London: Norton