In all of these photographs we are strongly aware of the spatial distribution of the people: alone or in definable groups; moving toward or away from one another; sitting, standing, or lying down (and depending on the angle of vision constructed in each photograph, differently conformed visually in these corporeal postures); sometimes talking with or otherwise engaging one another, sometimes remaining silent and self-absorbed. The temporal distribution of these visible spatial relations, however, is not immediately visible in the first plates in the book: the strong light erases shadows that could establish the time of day, and the high vantage point from which the images have been secures has suppressed enough visible detail to suggest, at least momentarily, that all the people in all the photographs are the same ones. But the movements of the people, as well as their belongings and paraphernalia, show us otherwise: we are looking at partly or entirely different sets of people occupying the place in similar ways, even though the duration of this transformation cannot be known visually: it could be seconds or minutes, or it could be days or months or even years.

What is the point of this complex spatio-temporal indexing, intersection, transformation, and involution, and of the photographer’s construction of visible ambiguities and irresolvable visual uncertainties about actual time and place or similarity and difference regardless of the apparent identity or likeness in people’s comportment and actions as captured photographically? (Ontologically speaking, a photograph must always capture the reflectances of the particular objects placed before it, though it need not represent them.) It becomes clear that we not seeing the same place in a unified temporal and spatial representation of it. We are seeing historically discrete and substantially disjunct images of the place-images in which certain likenesses become clearly visible to us despite spatial dislocation and temporal discontinuity in the places and activities being photographed. This dislocation and discontinuity in the images – the photographs beak away from ordinary expectations about order in time (quasi-cinematic expectations for an action unfolding in a single direction) and regularity in space (quasi-perspectival expectations fro scale and shape in relation to standpoint) – help to reveal an underlying if hidden conformity in the subjects. What is it?

Whitney Davis "Massimo Vitali's Mammals" in Natural Habitats, Göttingen, Steidl, 2010, pp. 133 - 135.