Don’t some people object to being photographed?
No, not really. I never had problems with people on the beach. Despite the fact that I am on top of big scaffolding with a huge camera, people don’t take any notice of me. They are more aggressive if you go around with a small camera
and you look a bit nosy, but I am high and far away and nobody really cares. It would be more difficult if I took pictures with my iPhone, but no one knows what a plate camera is anymore and you can tell them anything. Sometimes one of my assistants says that we’re measuring the speed of swimmers! We can say the most stupid things sometimes.

Which cameras and lenses do you use?

I always have digital and large-format lm cameras side by side. I have an 8 x 10 Phillips, made by a guy from the Midwest who stopped making these cameras about 10 years ago—just disappeared, nobody knows where he’s gone. And I have an 11 x 14 Deardorff from the ’50s, a classic American camera that is a fantastic format, a big chunk of lm and you get a lot of detail. The digital is an Alpa with a Phase One back with 80 million pixels. The lenses correspond to a bit more
than a 50 mm on a smaller camera. I don’t like to use wide angles. You get the perspective of the wide angle and it’s very fake. You have a huge foreground, huge sky, and what really interests you is too small because everything is pushed farther back. I prefer normal to slightly longer lenses without the awkward distortion. I tried a panoramic camera, but that again is something really contrived. I don’t like special cameras. I try to use cameras that see in a way that everybody could see with their eyes or a little camera. Even the lenses should be very normal, otherwise you lose all the matter-of-factness that I like my pictures to have.

How do you compose a shot?
I don’t direct the people. I just choose a position, locate the water line, and put the camera on level, and the picture is normally there. You don’t have to move around or change. It should be something really matter-of-fact. We drop the lens and shoot straight on, never looking down because it changes the view.
The pictures should allow you to invent your own stories, like I do when I take the pictures. That’s why I have a certain number of people in the pictures. If you have 10 people it just doesn’t work. If you have 10,000 people it doesn’t work. If you have 30, 60, or 100, you have bread for your brain. You can invent things and there is participation from the viewer. Collectors always say, “Massimo, every time I go in front of your pictures I see something I hadn’t seen before.” That’s one of the reasons I take a picture.

How many exposures do you make?
I shoot very few pictures. If I have problems I shoot more, but if I’m sure that I have a good picture I shoot maybe only two of a particular subject. In the last 19 years I’ve shot 4,700 negatives or digital photos. Digital doesn’t cost anything so you can take more, but it clogs your hard disks and then you have to go back and you waste a lot of time choosing, correcting, and raw developing. So with a digital I take maybe 10 or 20 pictures in a day. A normal day it’s about 10 lm negatives and maybe 20 digital. But it’s nothing compared to a fashion photographer. What I shoot in 20 years he would shoot in a day. I’ve printed maybe a couple of hundred subjects, but most get editioned in six, so I have thousands of pictures around in collections.

Why do you always print on such a large scale, often more than 6 x 7 feet?
I want to be able to look not only at the whole picture but also at the faces of the people, what kind of sunglasses, what time is on their watch. I want the viewer to be able to move in and out of the picture, to get close and follow the story and see the details, and then move out and see the whole image. Sometimes people make prints that don’t have a reason to be that large. With mine I think there is a very specific reason. I sometimes print the lm negatives directly with the enlarger, but if things must be corrected I have a guy who makes huge scans that I print on a Lightjet that uses a laser beam to expose photographic paper. I prefer photographic paper to inkjet prints because the color is inside the paper. With inkjet the dye is little balls of color on top of the paper. I’ve seen a couple of pictures of mine printed with those machines and I really hate them.

You face-mount the prints onto acrylic sheets using the Diasec process. Why do you like that?
Because it gives weight. It turns a piece of paper into an object. I used to have just a white border around the image, but now I put on frames as
well. Normally I make the prints in Milano and have them put under Plexi and framed in Dusseldorf. It’s funny, all the famous photographers go to the same Dusseldorf lab and Diasec place —Grieger— and the same framer. A lot of photographers send their assistants. Jeff Wall sends an assistant who can stay, like, three days on one picture, more
than I can spend. Now they are all printing on a machine that is called a Latex printer, much nicer than the usual inkjet printers, and the paper is, like, 3 meters wide. It’s the only machine you can print that wide. The only limit is the size of the Plexi, and this lab has 3 x 5 sheets of Plexi made expressly for them.

How long do you and your crew stay at a location?

The trips are never more than maybe one week or 10 days. Otherwise the assistants get nervous, they get bored, and I want to go home. We
 have a good dinner, and always try to find good restaurants, so everybody’s happy. Everything is like a ritual, and everybody knows exactly what you have to do.

Shooting beaches must provide a lot of opportunity for good seafood…

Absolutely! Our favorite fish is from Lampedusa. There’s nothing like it in the world! It’s just unbeatable. Whatever fish you get there is
 so flavorful. It’s in the middle of the south Mediterranean and you have the current that goes out into the Atlantic Ocean and it’s just super tasty. If I eat the fish from the Atlantic it makes me laugh.

Jason Edward Kaufman, Beyond the Sea in Luxury, Summer 2015.