Massimo Vitali: Short Stories

For me the beach is the perfect place to observe people,” wrote Massimo Vitali on his blog back in July 2018. “In other words, we go to the beach to take pictures of people, not to take pictures of the beach. The beach is the most suitable place to observe human beings’ behavior, the existence of us human beings. How do people share the space on the beach, how are they staring at each other, or are they looking the other way? This is more important than geographical elements.

His new series, Short Stories, features plenty of beach scenes, often shot in his native Italy. Born in Como in 1944, Vitali studied photography at the London College of Printing and worked as a photojournalist in the 1960s and 70s before becoming a cinematographer for TV and film in the early 1980s. He started to shoot large format photographs in 1993, finding fame with his work Beach Scenes in 1995. He’s also shot crowds in other landscapes though, including in nightclubs, and the new portfolio includes these other social spaces as well as beach scenes.

Duplé Paura 1, 1997 © Massimo Vitali, courtesy Mazzoleni London Torino

Vitali works selectively, shooting only one or two negatives at a time – on his blog he estimated he’s shot nearly 5000 negatives over the last two decades, for example, noting “for commercial photographers, it is a number they reach in two days”. “If you include the cost of film, development, and contact printing, it will cost around €200 per sheet, so I will focus on it,” he added.

“I use both an 8×10 camera and an 11×14 camera. About two years ago, I started using a camera that uses a middle format digital pack. Digital does not cost much, but I still will not do much shooting. When you overshoot, you lose your balance.”

Similarly his new work, Short Stories – on show in London’s Mazzoleni gallery and soon to be published by Steidl – is a selection of just 12 images from his photography career, each taken from a different project. “Each singular image depicts a significant moment for Vitali – the artist’s ‘short stories’ of a long and distinguished career,” reads the press. Massimo Vitali: Short Stories is on show from 12 April – 24 May 2019 at Mazzoleni, 27 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HZ Short Stories by Massimo Vitali is soon to be published by Steidl, priced €75

Picnic Allée, 2000 © Massimo Vitali, courtesy Mazzoleni London Torino
Catania Under the Volcano, 2007 © Massimo Vitali, courtesy Mazzoleni London Torino
Carcavelos Pier, 2016 © Massimo Vitali, courtesy Mazzoleni London Torino
Cala Llosa South, 2016 © Massimo Vitali, courtesy Mazzoleni London Torino
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy