Ulya Aligulova: You’ve also depicted various outdoor concerts, ski resorts, and other events with large gatherings of people engaged in recreational activities. What draws you to such masses?

Massimo Vitali: I’m interested in humans, in human behavior. When I started, I was thinking about what has been done, not only in photography but in paintings since the Renaissance. You see that all these paintings are full of people because, obviously, all the paintings were commissioned, and they didn’t want to have an empty painting or a boring landscape. They were paying a lot and they wanted a lot. They wanted the artist to suffer (laughing).
So I had this in mind. I have to show that there is some sort of effort in my pictures. I’m against taking chances in photography. I’m all about planning. If somebody buys a photograph, I think they’d prefer something that is filled with points of interest rather than something empty and minimalistic. The amount of people in a photograph interests me because you have more connections and stories happening at the same time. So in a way, I had to do it. But as I went on, I was able to observe the importance of fewer people in a photograph too.

U.A. Is it your aim as an artist to provide social commentary on how people live and what they do as recreation, or is your work more of a documentative nature?

M.V. If you start giving commentary, you get onto a difficult path. I’d rather be observational, detached, than give my opinion. I never photograph special places, special people. I start with something really plain and keep in that direction. But I see that some pictures that were really plain 20 years ago now look much more interesting because we can compare, draw conclusions. But at the time of the shooting, I think that you have to be a bit detached. I’m simply giving little facts with no important context but facts eventually add up to a view of our society.

U.A. Can you describe your work process? How do you choose the right location and when do you know it’s the right timing to capture the scene?
M.V. I shoot every weekend. I look for places where I know that people go. I have ideas of what I think might be an interesting thing. Now, of course, the main interest lies in the fact that we just came out of the lockdown and so it’s so strange to see how people interact. This is something that only happens once every century so it’s a fantastic possibility for shooting things that are different from what you’d shoot normally. I had many possibilities of doing things elsewhere but I was sure that I must be in Italy this summer. I would like to see what people do, how they behave now. Then you can try to draw conclusions later instead of starting with them. They have to come slowly.

Ulya Aligulova, Massimo Vitali in ODDA Magazine n. 19, p. 88.