Vitali is working within the paradigm of the modern as marginal, ambiguous, the moment when social life becomes a spectacle, something to be regarded and recorded as an image. The tanned body on the beach or playing in the water carries the trace of modernism’s exoticization of otherness – for example, Gauguin’s paintings of young Tahitian women. And yet, once this is distance interrupts this voyeuristic relation. Here we must bear in mind the intended viewing context – the gallery or exhibition space. The original images are large-scale color photographs producing a very different scopic relation to their reproduction in book format. The fascinating detail and the weave of narrative interaction draws the viewer physically and optically into the space of the image initiating a to-and-from movement which constantly reframes the visual field. The original engagement of the viewer’s body is missing from the photographic reproductions in book form, besides a certain distillation in the subtlety of color and detail: the even, sun-bleaches light of the beaches with their pale, unmodulated skies, and the dramatic chiaroscuro of the nightclub scenes.

A significant feature of globalization is the movement of people across borders and territories, actions motivated by some in the tourist desire for foreign places, different cultures, enforced on others by the unequal distribution of power and the demands of economic survival. Departures become arrivals as we move from the known and familiar in search of new and dangerous pleasures. This need not, necessarily, involve great distances and the crossing of temporal zones, for the networks of the metropolis at the end of the millenium can equally make us strangers in a strange land; nomads negotiating the myriad systems of social and sexual relations. The traffic in signs is a shifting and constantly reforming visual landscape, a mixture of the histories that form us and the politics that define us. On these journeys and journeyings, a camera has usually preceded us, often accompanies us, and inhabits our material and mental worlds. In the photographic image an imaginary world masquerades as reality, but in that masquerade something of the world’s magical strangeness might reside in the most familiar of encounters: a day at the beach a night at the club.

Jon Bird, "Massimo Vitali" in Beach & Disco, Gottingen, Steidl, 2000, p. 13.