Collective Phenomena

A review of Noemi Pittaluga's new book: Massimo Vitali. una storia italiana. The book follows an articulated path that brings together different levels of reading Vitali’s life and work. Vitali’s style stems from a well-defined shooting approach which is not an end in its self, but is rather defined as an expressive necessity coherent with his visual way of reflecting on some aspects of the phenomena of contemporary crowds.

Noemi Pittaluga’s excellent work, which fully investigates the persona and work of Massimo Vitali, was published by Ledizioni, a publishing house specialized in academic publications: with this volume, she has created a book that goes beyond the classic academic approach fully entering into the realm of publishing of photographic vision and reflection. In fact, the volume is richly illustrated and the author’s texts are accompanied by many photographs, following an articulated path that brings together different levels of reading Vitali’s story, both human and professional.

Massimo Vitali first emerged as a photographer of social reportage between the late 60s and the early 70s, after which he nearly abandoned photography, turning his interest instead in cinematography. In the early 90s, his interest found a synthesis in a new form of photographic language between his training as social photographer, attentive to people and their actions, and a rigorous aesthetic research. […]
Vitali’s style stems from a well-defined shooting approach which is not an end in its self, not a simple trick, seeking diversity at all costs, but is rather defined as an expressive necessity coherent with his visual way of reflecting on some aspects of the phenomena of contemporary crowds.

“Massimo Vitali’s photographs appear as large frescoes in which the distance and the view from above suggest an overall analytic approach.”

[…] Divided into many carefully structured chapters, the author provides an exhaustive picture of Massimo Vitali’s life and work, where description and information are pleasantly intertwined with reflection. In this regard, in one of the final paragraphs of the book, entitled “La dimensione performativa dello spettatore” (The performative dimension of the spectator), Noemi Pittaluga appropriately brings into play the spectator, who plays an important role in this complex game of an almost voyeuristic relationship, as we are dealing with absolutely ordinary scenes – people on the beach, indeed, or similar scenes – but at the same time placed in a dimension that in some way evades everyday life.

If I may be allowed to make a comparison in the form of a critical-visual oxymoron, Massimo Vitali’s photographs are on a stylistically opposite side – taking into account their common subject matter – to those of Martin Parr: while the latter enters into the scenes with his shots, with close-ups, details, and in any case, with complex and dynamic shots, in which the collective is represented through the individual, on the other hand, Massimo Vitali’s photographs appear as large frescoes in which the distance and the view from above suggest an overall analytic approach. In his works, the stylistic proximity to the experiences of some German photographers from the so-called Düsseldorf school stands out.

Pio Tarantini, “Una storia italiana per Massimo Vitali” in FPmag, January 2022.

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