“I begin with a theatrical scene, looking for scenarios that work, and there I shoot. I never choose what I photograph by chance, rather I arrive at my choice through various suggestions and studies. I move around in the places I’m interested in shooting over the course of a few days, so that the scenario I desire appears in front of my lens. The place is decided before, along with the position of the camera. These two elements are fixed, they make up the foundation of my work. I decide everything else later…”

In a certain way, perhaps due to a sense of horror vacui that causes the photographer to systematically fill the frame with characters and situations, there is a commonality between Massimo Vitali’s work and painting, more than with traditional photography.

“When you look at a classical painting – the photographer says – you can see that the canvas is full of different layers: normal people, soldiers and kings, angels, and finally God, with some elements of landscape here and there. My idea, having grown up with this mentality, was to develop images with very few empty spaces.”

If we had to look for the great grandfather of Vitali’s beaches, instead of a Christian or classical iconography, we might think of The beach by Renato Guttuso. A large canvas (301×452 cm) that the Sicilian painter did between 1955 and 1956, after a long series of preparatory drawings. Women, men, bodies outstretched, laying down or standing up which fill the huge space of the canvas in a sort of tangle of distressing figures.

“Since before the Renaissance paintings were full: on the bottom you would find the patrons who had commissioned the work, normally on the right side, then the knights, saints, Madonnas, kids, and angels. Why shouldn’t we be able to take photographs with the same configuration?”

Rosa Carnevale, "Una giornata al mare" in Massimo Vitali, Spiagge, Reportage 21 - Contrasto, Corriere della sera, 2019, pp. 16 - 18.