I knew the work of Massimo Vitali before I met him where we both live, in Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. It is to me always interesting to know an artist’s work before any meeting, totally independent of any personality that can be read into the work. (And how often I think of works of art that depend upon the personality of the artist, too many artists to name). In the case of Massimo Vitali’s work, my appreciation of it was, and in ways still is, something of a generalization of it, an evocative vision of many people in a crowd, seemingly with no contact with one another, in opaque water in a calm sea, they, perhaps, bathers in the sea, and all seen from a high distance. The medium is photography.
I should start with making a sharp division between photography as a record taken of an event in time and space, and the photographic medium Vitali uses, a complex method that requires assistants and, I imagine, scaffolding, photographs taken somewhere outside of time and space. The division has to do, to me, between wondering about the people recorded in a photograph, wondering about where they come from, what they do, why they are where the camera focuses on them, and the distancing in Vitali’s work from such questions, so the wonder is not “who are they? where are they?” but the wonder about the superseding vision that they are the figuration of. It is my presumption to see in that vision a disconnection among crowds of people, even an expansive loneliness of each person in the crowd; but, I must emphasize, his works are in no way comments about society, for, as detailed as they are, the effect – an effect that appears to be without cause – is a vision beyond any comment, but there, as the sea is there, and people are there, and nature is there, and, somehow, perhaps because of being so suspended in being here, the vision is as moving as pity for human kind for being just that, for being human kind. And I would like to add that there is in his work a strange longing about which I, in fact, have nothing to add.
Now that I know him, I can see Massimo Vitali standing in front of one of his works, and I see him with his lower lip pushed out, often blinking, thoughtful and taciturn, wondering about a world that is too much with him to see but at a compassionate, and perhaps longing, distance.

David Plante's comment on one of my posts from the blog, 12 September 2017.