Michele Chiossi: Massimo, I had the opportunity to watch you prepare your scaffolding, let’s call it site-specific, where I discovered your “Prince’s point of view”, that privileged point of observation dear to Sebastiano Serlio that you have borrowed and that has become your trademark. Do you want to talk about the structure you have designed to reach the aerial height where you stand and make your vision so recognizable?

Massimo Vitali: In 1994, when I started the “beach series” in a totally fortuitous way, I built with my friend David Smithson (sculptor and video artist ) the version 1.0 of the stage. The height was more or less the same, the stability was not so good but the setting was correct and the aluminum tubes coming from curtain rods were easily available in Versilia. It was a small stand with a very small platform on which I put a staircase. Unfortunately, in one of the famous sessions in Rosignano, a band of bad guys stole the ladder and left me perched for a long time on top. Fortunately, my faithful squire, Giovanni Romboni was hunting and, with dirt and threats, he was able to recover the way of descent. A few years later, I passed to the version 2.0, with super-rigid carbon pipes, a built-in and non-removable ladder. Of course, the concern was to make a statement and to gain recognition that would have been more difficult with any other means. Now, I can also find other points of view compatible with my work but not entirely related to my tripod. It’s becoming more difficult to photograph (because of permissions) in general, so I also have to start designing a standard platform, which I intend to do next season. Normally, there is a list of permissions that is required that includes: a map of the site in which I intend to take the pictures, documents proving that the construction of the tripod follows the European safety codes, signage in order to remove bathers for about ten feet around the site. Sometimes, the port authorities add that the possibility of photographing does not include their approval of an act that, in their opinion, goes against the rules of the damn privacy… However, in 15 years of work nobody has complained, though there have been some who have recognized themselves in the photos. Probably detachment, non-involvement, and objectivity, which are the foundation of my work, have kept me from troubles.

MC: The bird’s eye effect that your photos possess makes the shots analytic and almost sociological. A silent, almost invisible observer that the audience seems to accept and that allows you to record undisturbed the tranches de vie of the masses in moments of fun and leisure. How do you organize your shots?

MV: The organization begins with the site, which is found through friends, photos taken over the Internet, personal scouting or via Google Maps. Normally, when you find some interesting situations in an area, you organize a trip and try to deepen your research of the surroundings. When you find the place, you have to look for where to stand to be silent and invisible, then you have to wait. But when I say wait I do not mean waiting for the photographers of the “decisive moment”. In everyday life, all moments are decisive and at the same time devoid of spectacularity. Waiting means filling the spaces, putting your eyes in touch, creating shortcuts, sorting colors.

MC: I find interesting the quality of light in your photographs, which reminds me of the Flemish painting, painting that often represented dead nature with the symbolic values of the society of the time. Do you think your work has a value of historical memory?

MV: And here we get to the point. Some of my detractors tell me, “But you always do the beaches, don’t you think it’s time to change?” But I am changing, I always change in every picture, which is subtly different but subtly the same. The flow is leading me to landscapes that contrast with our lives, to what remains of a transformed and immutable nature where colonies of coastal mammals find their natural habitat, or maybe souls that purify their sins in the sea.

Michele Chiossi, "The Curiosity of the Prince" in FlashArt n. 290, February 2011.