Maria Letizia Gagliardi: Even if we cannot say that you are an architectural photographer, we can nevertheless affirm that you have always photographed spaces, urban and non-urban areas. Have you ever been interested in architecture as an object?

Massimo Vitali: Fifteen years ago, when I started to take pictures again, even though I didn’t really know how, I knew I wanted to use the photographic medium in a different way. At that point, I made two decisions: I decided to use large format cameras, because they gave me a wider view point compared to small and medium format cameras, and to create images that would engage the viewer. I wanted the beholder to read many things and not just one, so architecture, as urban space, non-urban space, street furniture or groups of people, has become one of the things to read within a complicated photograph; I wanted people to spend time to see the details or the whole image, to step in and out of the pictures, I required a large participation from the viewer. In my way of conceiving photography, shooting an architectural object would be limiting, I want to have the architecture, the street, the shop, the shopkeeper selling his goods, the people on the bench, the flowerbed…

In my way of conceiving photography, shooting an architectural object would be limiting, I want to have the architecture, the street, the shop, the shopkeeper selling his goods, the people on the bench, the flowerbed…

M.L.G.: So, you don’t communicate architecture, but reality, the relationship between the parts, do you?

M.V.: Yes, but within this “other” there is architecture. I’m interested in how architecture relates to space, how it is lived, how it relates to people, the traces of objects on the balconies, to create a complex way of reading reality.

M.L.G.: As they are so linked to the relationship between the parts, can we say that your photographs are documentary material, exactly because they give a precise indication of the historical period in which they were taken?

M.V.: They are made exactly for that purpose! I want the pictures help the sociologist, the historian, they intend to document our time; my research is precisely to extract the essence of our time. My pictures are based on the observation of reality; when I work I act in a completely different way compared to other photographers: I choose the place, usually the beaches, I arrive very early in the morning and wait for my imagination to coincide with randomness. Usually things go exactly as imagined and the point of view that I have selected coincides perfectly with the result I expected.

In my desire to read everything, light is random just like the rest. My work goes against a series of stylistic features of traditional photography, such as light or composition…

M.L.G.: Even in your beach photographs, architecture most of the times is in the background.

M.V.: Exactly, it’s in the background. The main subject are the relationships between spaces, people, elements.

M.L.G.: How important is light in your photos?

M.V.: Zero. Light is absolutely random, normally it’s one of the things I don’t consider at all and I never thought of returning after an hour to take a picture, it’s an attitude I don’t consider necessary. In my desire to read everything, light is random just like the rest. My work goes against a series of stylistic features of traditional photography, such as light or composition; I fight a little battle even against the composition regardless of the cost, my pictures could be shifted 10 degrees to the right or left but nothing would change, because reality continues beyond the photograph. Worrying about this would be like photographing a war waiting for a beautiful light or seeking a specific composition of the image. However, it must be said that light has been a fundamental part of photography in the last thirty years, in fact, pictorialism in photography has done damage for decades and hasn’t stopped yet.

M.L.G.: Since you were involved in cinema and advertising, do you think photography is able to communicate the fourth dimension?

M.V.: I think so. For example, I use a trick that can give the idea, even if only hinted at, of time. I often shoot diptychs where the two images overlap by 10 percent; the mind of the beholder, while putting together the fundamental lines of the photograph, realizes that in this 10 percent there were some changes suggesting a passage of time. Certainly, the beholder must grasp this passage.

Maria Letizia Gagliardi, La misura dello spazio, contrasto: Roma 2010, pp. 291-295.