Like every photographer with a certain amount of experience, I made myself a rule (which I often overlook) that when you see something interesting you have to shoot it at that very moment. One can be tempted to wait, but the day after, something will have happened — the weather will not be ideal, something will have moved, you cannot park the car — the bottom line is, when you see something, you should shoot it immediately, never thinking that tomorrow could be better, because it will almost always be worse.

This may be my rule of thumb, but I have many interesting instances where ultimately I could not take the picture I wanted to take. It may seem strange, but a long time ago I even ended up in jail for not having taken a picture that the judge said I should have taken, although I don’t want to rehash these sad and painful stories.

A funnier instance happened when I was doing some shots in Pisa, in the Piazza dei Miracoli. I had the leaning tower behind me, and was shooting the dome an the grassy piazza, which in summer is jumping with people: newlyweds, tourists, or just about anybody posing for the traditional “holding up the tower” picture. I was on top of my tripod with my 8×10 camera, and after waiting for a few hours, I got a couple of shots that I considered good enough. Happy with the day, I started to close up shop — I removed the lens, put the film away, and began to close the camera. Of course, at that very moment, I see this fantastic thing happening with in front of me. A Japanese businessman Is walking with a little leather suitcase on the path leading directly to the center of my picture. A gypsy woman with a young kid in her arms goes up to him while another toddler manages to take his wallet. All this happened in a second, but I have it stamped in my mind as if it took two minutes. It took another two minutes for the man to understand what had happened, even though I already realized his dilemma, and it could have been a lovely shot that I never took.

Massimo Vitali in Photographs not taken, edited by Will Steacy, Daylight Community Arts Foundation, New York, 2012, p. 193.