Scottie Admire: Massimo Vitali

Mr. Massimo Vitali (born in Como, Italy in 1944) is an Italian photographer best known for his large-scale colour images of beaches and mass leisure events.

Vitali studied photography at the London College of Printing. He worked as a photojournalist in the 1970s, but at the beginning of the 80s a growing mistrust in the belief that photography had the capacity to reproduce the subtleties of reality led to a change in his career path. He began working as a movie camera operator, before beginning a fine-art practice in 1995.

This change in direction is clear in Vitali’s works. Since the mid 1990’s, he has chronicled contemporary life and the inherent conflict between humans and their interactions with their environment. His greatest, or at least most well known works, commenced in 1995 with his beach series. His panoramic views of large masses of people are modern classics, and his scenes have expanded to pools, ski resorts, piazzas, cities and other leisure sites around the world. 

His series of Italian beach panoramas began in the light of drastic political changes in Italy. Vitali started to observe his fellow countrymen very carefully. In Whitney Davis’ view, he depicted a “sanitized, complacent view of Italian normalities”, at the same time revealing “the inner conditions and disturbances of normality: its cosmetic fakery, sexual innuendo, commodified leisure, deluded sense of affluence, and rigid conformism”. 

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder

Vitali’s works are revered for their beauty. They capture moments in time at idyllic locations around Europe. His photographs of the European summer feature some of the most well known beaches in Europe, as well as hidden beaches in countries including Italy and Greece. 

It is perhaps surprising then, that in a recent interview he commented that he has two pet hates - the fascination with beauty in pictures and the ‘where is this?’ question with respect to the geographic location where they are taken. 

Vitali’s fascination is on understanding why the people in his images are doing what they're doing. His position challenges viewers to look beyond the beauty and geographic location to something more.

Vitali at home

Vitali’s primary residence is in Lucca, Italy, where his family recently converted an abandoned church into their new home and studio. The creation of this special space was a long time in the making. He was quoted, saying “We had to keep everything the same and could not create smaller rooms … Everything you dig up belongs to the state. We found tons of pottery, pieces that were beautiful but that had been used as filler. A job that would normally take a bulldozer three days took an entire month, as the archaeologist carefully documented everything she found.”

Expertly designed by renowned Italian architect, Paola Sausa, Vitali and his family did the interior design. The result is simple, yet complex, and unfortunately for him - beautiful. 

Photography by Massimo Vitali & Paul Barbera.