Standing three metres high on a purpose-built scaffold, Italian photographer Massimo Vitali scans the scene in front of him. Families, couples and groups of friends have arranged themselves on the beach below, sitting on towels or standing in the sea, indifferent to the quietly industrious artist and his assistants, who are busy setting up the large, cumbersome 11′ x 14′ camera. They hoist it into place, fixing it to the scaffold and sliding in the film, and leave Vitali to do his work. Without framing his shot, he opens the shutter.
It’s a “dance”, as Vitali calls it, that he has performed all over the world during the past 20 years, from his native Italy to Turkey and Brazil, invisibly recording those seeking the sun and an escape from the responsibilities of their daily lives. It is, as he tells me when I meet him in London, a form of social research – an artistic recording of place and people at leisure.

The difference between my picture and somebody else’s pictures is in their making. It is documentary photography, but it is also art and my real artistic contribution is the performative act of making the picture. I make a little dance and afterwards I get a picture that I sell, but the selling is secondary. The real moment of creativity is when I take the picture. That is the important moment… it’s the key moment, because before that you need a van, the equipment, the assistants, the food the night before, etc. You have to coordinate, you have to put people together, you have to talk with everybody, you have to listen to what one says to the other. This little crew becomes like a small community and the pictures come out because all this works together.

George Upton, “Massimo Vitali: Life’s A Beach” in PORT Magazine Online, May 24, 2016.