Franco Fontana is an Italian photographer, born in Modena, Italy. He is best known for his abstract colour landscapes. He started taking photographs in the 1950s when he was working as a decorator in a furniture showroom. In 1961 he joined a local amateur club in Modena. The experience would be a turning point in his career, and Fontana went on to have his first solo exhibition in 1965 at the Società Fotografica Subalpina, Turin and at the Galleria della Sala di Cultura in Modena in 1968. Since then he has participated in more than 400 group and solo exhibitions.
Fontana has photographed for advertising campaigns for brands such as Fiat, Volkswagen, Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, Snam, Sony, Volvo, Versace, Canon, Kodak, Robe di Kappa, Swissair, and has been a magazine photographer for publications including Time Magazine
(USA and France), Venerdì di Repubblica
, and with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
and the New York Times
Fontana's first book, Skyline
, was published in 1978 in France by Contrejour and in Italy by Punto e Virgola with a text by Helmut Gernsheim
. Fontana is the art director of the Toscana Fotofestival. He has received numerous awards, such as the 1989 Tokyo Photographer Society of Japan - The 150 Years of Photography - Photographer Award.
Fontana is especially interested in the interplay of colours. His early innovations in colour photography in the 1960s were stylistically disruptive. According to art critic Giuliana Scimé
, Fontana "destroyed all the structures, practices, and technical choices within the Italian tradition."
Fontana uses 35mm cameras, and as noted by Iwan Zahar
, deploys distant viewpoints with telephoto lenses to flatten contours in a landscape of crops and fields into bands of intense, saturated colour. This is an effect that Franco Lefèvre has described as dialectical landscapism
. Of his use of colour in his 2019 retrospective exhibition Sintesi
('Synthesis') at Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, curator Diana Baldon
has observed “His bold geometric compositions are characterised by shimmering colours, level perspectives and a geometric-formalist and minimal language...By adopting this approach during the 1960s, Fontana injected a new vitality into the field of creative colour photography for then multicolour was not in fashion in art photography...The way Fontana shoots, dematerialises the objects photographed, which loose three-dimensionality and realism to become part of an abstract drawing”.
Aside from the rural landscape Fontana has applied his graphic sensibility to other subjects: city architecture, portraiture, fashion, still-life and the nude. Fontana's photographs have also been used as album cover art for records produced by the ECM Records jazz label.
Fontana's style was shaped in the late 1960s under the influence of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. In that his teachers were his older contemporaries, Mark Rothko
, Barnett Newman
and Ed Reinhardt
. Fontana's work with its focus on form and color was quite different from the classical black-and-white art photography that was predominant at that time.
His work is in more than 50 museums in the world, including Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, George Eastman House
International Museum of Photography and Film (Rochester), Ludwig Museum (Cologne), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
, the Museum of Fine Arts
(Boston), Museum of Modern Art (Paris), The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow), National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), Victoria and Albert Museum
(London), Galleria d’Arte Moderna - Torino, Museum of Fine Arts
, Houston-Texas - USA, Deutch Bank, Banca Unicredit, Italia, UBS Unione Banche Svizzere, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes- Buenos Aires, Muscadelle Museum of Art - Williamsburg, USA, Mus e WWestlicht, Vienna, IVAM, Museo Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Valencia, Mus e de l’Elys e, Losanna, Maxxi, Roma, Macro, Roma.