The palpitating life of international capitals in recent years has provided the stage for social, political and cultural renovation. People from all over the world live as a moving crowd, permanently inter-changeable. A number of political events, such as the fall of the Berlin wall, have changed life in many metropolitan cities even more substantially and have opened up new perspectives and connections. For the visitor, Barcelona reflects this sense of rupture in a special way. The Catalan capital constantly remodels itself, expands and modernizes. It is the city of the Iberian Peninsular which, with its surprising progress at the beginning of the twentieth century, made connections most quickly with great cities around the world. It is just this capacity to adapt and change with the times, which led the writer Eduardo Mendoza to baptise his native city the Ciudad de los Prodigios (The City of Wonders).

Similarly, demographic changes affect the look of an avenue which has always been an area of social renovation and citizens’ emancipation: as in Mendoza’s Ciudad de los Prodigios, in the early years of the twentieth century the big city’s promises attracted people to Barcelona from the arid expanses of Spain. Now the immigrants come from all over the world; today, those who sit on the shady benches beside the old Barcelonians are Africans, South Americans and Asians.

[…] Vitali’s shows a certain objective democracy through the gaze of the exterior observer. His images of the avenue stretch before the eyes of the viewer as a huge animated painting. Massimo Vitali’s photographs of scenes of the shopping and leisure culture of the globalized world offer snapshots of daily life. Thus, Vitali has become contemporary society’s observer and archivist. And the photographs of La Rambla taken between 2008 and 2009 must also be understood as part of this ambitious long-term project.

With his densely populated images, Massimo Vitali has created a unique body of work. When he takes photographs, he focuses on his subjects from above because he is more interested in large panoramas than small, intimate spaces. In this way, the Italian has succeeded in creating particularly intense images of La Rambla. Architectural fragments and fragments of monuments, fragmented backgrounds, and cut-out super-structures of images; the aesthetic is reminiscent of the backdrops in eighteenth century landscape painting, while the scene-setting of crowds brings to mind Rafael’s Vatican prints.

Massimo Vitali photographs the colourful crowd of the Rambla from a raised point and with a panoramic camera. His views of the bustling of passers-by, chosen from the anonymous sea of the current of pedestrians, are not in any way secretive nor voyeuristic. He captures people with a general, democratic gaze, without focusing directly on them. He keeps a respectful distance at all times. This way of working underlines the transitoriness in Vitali’s work: the faces of people walking reflect the characteristic air of distracted caution with which pedestrians in big cities pass each other. The observer wonders about where they are going, what they are thinking and imagining; while as individuals we see ourselves reflected in them.

[…] For Massimo Vitali architecture only plays the role of scenery or backdrop, in spite of the fact that his deep perspectives and the way he frames his images make it clear he has «studied» La Rambla minutely. Modest, and with a desire to pass imperceptibly, the photographer portrays what he sees in the middle of the crowd. His gaze isn’t selective, but wide, with open angles, direct. Everything’s interesting, every person, every detail. This means that the images are more real than any journalistic document, given that they authentically reproduce real life.

This is so because Vitali is also very interested in the provisional, which we see reflected in the constellation of people in permanent change. The artist doesn’t only tell one story, but many. Just as with a mosaic, the general image can only be understood as a composition of various small fragments and cuttings of urban reality. Therefore, it’s not just what is special and spectacular that is stimulating for the artist but also what is everyday, real. And it is just this which turns photographed human figures into a subject and recipient for interesting projections.

Friederike Nymphius, "La Rambla, as seen by Jordi Bernadó and Massimo Vitali" in La Rambla In/Out Barcelona, Ed. Arts Santa Mònica/Actar, Barcelona 2010.