In Nice, we visited the Musée de la Photographie to see the Franco Fontana exhibition. The work shown was focused on his land and cityscapes. His method of abstraction of these subjects results in a simplification that emphasizes the lines and shapes of the subject, over details of the content itself. The method of rendering the images complements this simplification, and for what ever reason, reminded me of Yozo Hamaguchi’s use of mezzotints. The results are often very poetic, highly aesthetic.
The use of aesthetics in documentary photography can present various ethical questions. Usually these are related to the concern that by beautifying something, that which might otherwise be considered traumatic, it becomes normalized as a result of making it more appealing or more acceptable. Ed Burtynsky’s work has received such criticism — making beautiful the destruction of our planet, our environment, and thus the allegation his work devalues the significance. Yet, the counter argument submits that the juxtaposition of the pleasant and the horrible offers a reference point to measure the degree of horror. How can one determine the scale of how horrible something is, and not be desensitized as it is viewed, if the subject is not anchored to a reference point? That which is destroyed.