When contrast is increased, with artistic intent, shadows can represent mystery. An abandoned house for example, with a half open door showing slight detail in the room beyond, might benefit from a contrast increase. But you have to ask yourself if the detail through the door actually drew you to make the picture - otherwise you will be changing the original intent of the photograph in the darkroom, removing the detail with contrast.
With full shadow detail however, a picture can be mysterious or mood driven by the inherent nature of the subject - think Diane Arbus. Ultimately I think this question comes down to craft vs straight photography. Revealing everything can make a picture just as mysterious, and personally, I prefer a photographer who can create mystery or mood in a picture through the seeing alone. Everything done in the darkroom should only be elaboration. To add to Ansel Adams' idea - you can get away with adding extra notes to a major chord, but changing it to a minor fundamentally changes the original intent and structure of the piece. There will be a confusing dissonance or conflict sensed by the listener/viewer.
In short, I don't think it's purely a question of aesthetics. I believe aesthetics are inevitable when there is intent. I think I was initially drawn to Thomas Joshua Cooper's work for aesthetic reasons, craft aesthetics (well executed high contrast images) and I only saw what I was looking for, but I carried on looking because there was something else.
Last edited by batwister; 11-27-2012 at 12:19 PM. Click to view previous post history.