“Mister, can I have my soul back please?” could well be the subtitle for Massimo Vitali’s exhibition of photographs exploring the difference between personal and public space and between work and leisure. Vitali gets his kids from setting up (relatively) unobtrusive cameras which capture crowds of people in various environments – on a beach or at a club. He watches them, clocking the unselfconscious actions of those who don’t know they’re being watched. You’d think beaches and clubs would be two of the ultimate leisure playgrounds. Yet, particularly in the club scenes, the distinction between work and leisure is blurred. Think about it. Doesn’t your supposed freedom from the regimentation of the workplace becomes simply another quasi-industrial process? We clock in, we dance and we block out.

Now there’s a cheering thought. Perhaps more importantly, these pictures raise unsettling questions of self-hood. How far are we in control of our own image and what controls, if any, do we have over its use? In an era of increasing CCTV surveillance, his do we know who is watching us and why? Post-Diana, we all have a peripheral awareness of these issues, if only through an increased public perception of the problem of tabloid voyeurism, but the issue goes deeper than that. In an era where media coverage sometimes seems more real than reality, perhaps the time has come to reappraise our connection with our own image. Per-technological societies generally believed that photography stole the soul. Perhaps they had a point.

Pete Redmond in The face, n. 12, January 1998, p. 147.