Joerg Colberg: So pure chance – getting one of your cameras stolen and then being left with another one – does play a role for a photographer, maybe even more often than many people realize, doesn’t it?

MV: Yes, of course pure chance plays a big role and obviously that fact that you use one camera instead of another makes a big difference. I’m probably not saying anything new, but as everybody knows, photography as an art is “acheropite” – in other words, not man-made.

JC: I’m curious to learn whether you feel influenced in any way by Andreas Gursky or whether/how you see a relation to his work. Granted, Gursky’s work often operates on even larger scales, so that people are mere tiny specks, but I do see some similarities, which might hint at related intentions?

MV: Yes, of course. I think, like everyone, that I’ve been influenced by Andreas Gursky. The two main influences, apart from some similarities in locations we have both chosen over time, are:

1) The realization that you could take beautiful pictures in Europe, in Germany and Italy because, believe it or not, up to a certain point, not only me, but everybody thought that to make a really good picture you had to go to the US and photograph an empty petrol station in the desert. He made me aware that I could take interesting photos using the features I have around me, here in my country and on my continent.

2) He made me more conscious of distances, more aware that photography could embrace large landscapes where different activities could take place. Gursky added to my perception of the distance between the camera and subject and the ability to view the world in a more encompassing way.

Obviously I still think that my pictures, even when I photograph the same subjects as Gursky, preserve a more Italian/social/intimate/affectionate relationship with my subjects.

JC: Is there such a thing such as an “American”, “German” or “Italian” relationship with subjects? You seem to think so. How do these approaches differ? What makes your work more “Italian”? It clearly cannot be you taking photographs in Italy since if Andreas Gursky came to Italy you would probably still argue his photos use more of a German approach, would you?

MV: As you can appreciate, all kinds of cultural stereotypes are far from correct, but there is an aspect of truth in some of them. No matter how globalized art has become, our cultural backgrounds differ. I can’t speak for Americans or Germans but I can speak for myself. What I can really put in my photos is compassionate confusion and that sums up my country, its people, its landscape and its character. I have in mind Gursky’s photo of the Port of Salerno which I think is absolutely a German view of an Italian landscape. In my opinion he tries to put order into Italian chaos.

Joerg Colberg, A Conversation with Massimo Vitali, March 23, 2010.