Gian Franco Ragno

In the history of landscape photography there has always been room for a certain epic of the image, the search for the sublime of a romantic sort (from Timothy O’Sullivan to Ansel Adams).

Later, after the pure forms of straight photography, the modernity of nature (Bauhaus, New Objectivity) was extolled at first, followed by a far-reaching investigation into an anthropic landscape,
and, lastly, of the places of deep mutation on a global scale (Andreas Gursky). In short, this is the very vast trajectory of landscape photography.

On his part, on the margins of the city’s green areas – akin to what Eugène Atget did at the turn of the twentieth century in his jardins, where he photographed the statues and trees so as to provide “documents for artists” – Igor Ponti bears witness to a rare intervention of landscape architecture at our latitudes: the nineteenth-century encircling walls around the Villa at the centre of the park have been torn down and appear to be slipping into the mouth (foce), re-naturalizing the encounter between the lake and the river.

Among the other interventions, a wooden walkway, with neither railings nor barriers, has been built to allow citizens to reacquire a relationship with the surface of the water and, more in general, with nature.

With respect to the type of photography that is most in vogue today, that answers to a spectacular and globalized aesthetic, Ponti focuses on a place that is strongly limited in order to visually tell the lesser history of an ecological re-conquest. It is a project carried out with the proper attention and calm, by regularly and continuously spending time on site.

Formally speaking, Ponti pays close attention to the atmospheric colours, their temperatures, and to the nuances and the passing of the seasons. After which he synthesizes, distilling the large archive of negatives into a brief yet significant sequence contained in the book.

For Lugano, the city that owes its fame to an imaginary made up of postcards, and that is currently undergoing the paroxystic consumption of its territory, we need to emphasize that the “Foce” is a new, free place for everyone. We can even go so far as to say that this rejuvenation is Ponti’s true subject.

With respect to this photographer’s previous project and book, Looking for Identity, in which, as a native of Ticino, Ponti seeks, not without irony and a great deal of effort, his own identity, going beyond the physical barrier of the Alps, where identity is based on something else instead: on the rediscovery of the everyday, on the slow flowing of memories crossing back over places where we have lived.

If, for the creators of Land Art, the territory is an artistic space upon which to intervene, Ponti instead becomes a participating witness, leaving any re-modelling action to nature itself.

In short, the photographic project of the “Foce” thus appears as a small metaphor of the need for a vital space – the need for a place in which to win back the horizon, not just physical but especially existential – literally – at the level of the lake.