We met Massimo Vitali for the first time in the spring of 1994. Chiasso was on his way to Germany, and at that time he travelled a lot – for love – from his home in Marina di Pietrasanta in Italy. During one of his visits to the gallery, he showed us his first images, the kernels of what would become the “Spiagge italiane” project. These works contained black-and-white landscapes of panoramic proportions, showing riverbanks in Eastern Germany as viewed from the water, maybe from a boat.

The following year, Vitali returned to Chiasso with a bucket of his homegrown tomatoes and one of his first color images of beaches, which he called “la mamma” (Marina di Pietrasanta, August 1994) and had already printed in a large size. He was still not satisfied with the size, however, so he left with our suggestion to further enlarge them, although he had already convinced himself to do it.

At the end of the summer 1995, Vitali officially presented to us the “Spiagge italiane” project and brought the first enlargement in a format of 120 by 100 centimeters. The prints had just emerged from the Milan workshop, after which they had been wrapped in carton, carried on his car’s roof, and miraculously passed through custom controls.

With his sunburned face and lifeguard suntan resulting from long stays on a six-meter tripod, Massimo was happy and confident that he had obtained exactly what he wanted, after a long and patient wait for the right time for the shot, whet the bathers seemed to have forgotten his awkward presence. Looking at those sharp, rigorous, and technically perfect photographs, we immediately decided to schedule an exhibition for November 1995. We were a bit surprised but happy to be the first gallery presenting his new work.

At that time, Massimo’s photographic passion focused both on the German “Struffskys” (Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, and Andreas Gursky), who came from the hothouse of talents in Bernd Becher’s photography class, initiated at the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie in 1976, and on the rediscovery of an American photography pioneer: Eugene Omar Goldbeck (1892-1986). Vitali’s intuition, along with the catalogue The panoramic photography of Eugene O. Goldbeck, published in 1986 by University of Texas Press in Austin and then lent by Vitali to the Italian curates Giovanna Calvenzi and Kitti Bolognesi, inspired the exhibition of the Texan photographer during the Rencontres internationales de la photo in Arles in 1998. To the great delight of the Ticino public, Goldbeck’s photographs came to the Gottardo Gallery in Lugano the following year with a beautiful exhibition curated by Luca Patocchi and Alberto Bianda.

Like Eugene Goldbeck, Massimo Vitali is considered a “cutting-edge” person and photographer, always looking for boundaries to cross, both on a technical level and in terms of language. The works of both artist consistently mirror their time. For his geographic and human views, Goldbeck used a huge camera that he had modified to realize the shots, often from a sixty-meter tower. His compositions are militarily organized, although they don’t always portray the military; exposure times are long, and people diligently remain motionless until the end of the shooting.

Today, technology has changed greatly, yet Vitali, conscious of the technical possibilities available, totally exploits them, with the aim of going back to the old pioneer’s style. His point of view is reversed: his subject, whiter on beaches, in discos, or in squares, are not really even if sometimes relegated to the background or often degraded.

Vitali’s point of view is not at all haughty. Even if he takes his photos from a height of six meters, he does not aim to distance himself from the reality he is portraying. If the large size of the images initially forces us to step back to enjoy a more complete view of the picture, then we immediately move closer again to analyze the details of the human landscape and to dissent a network of complex relationships, and we like or dislike some characters. Observing the visitors to such an exhibition is funny because they are constantly stepping forward and backward in front of the photograph, looking for new details they apparently missed before.

There are authors who wish to include the “world” in their images, and thus they have looked for a chance to elevate their point of view using tools such as drones or helicopters. Massimo Vitali, although looking for the boundary to cross, has always jet his feet on the ground to this day, we still find in his images that particular relationship with human beings that represents the main core of his photographs.

Daniela and Guido Giudici, "1994" in Into the White, Erich Lindenbergh, Massimo Vitali, exhibition catalogue, Erich Lindenberg Foundation, 2014.