Compressed in sandwiches of plexiglass, aluminium and PVC (that support their weight and guarantee their duration), articulated in diptych, triptych, polittici that include up to eight elements, Vitali’s photographs recall the sun filled glasses that sitters had to remain behind for hours to allow the image to set on the plates, when having one’s portrait taken to become a museum object for a required a willingness to sit and pose and it “made the sitter suffer like a surgical operation”.
From the point of view of technique and method, Vitali’s photographs have a far away historic precedent that is little known, that of the commercial photographer Eugene. O. Goldbeck, an exception in the panorama of photography popular between the Twenties and Forties where the names Lewis H. Hine, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Margaret Bourke-White and Berenice Abbott dominate uncontested. Testimonies to the dramas of a time of rapid transformation, Goldbeck opposed the idea of a rigorously organized society, immortalized during the rites of aggregation like popular manifestations or, above all, especially during the war, military manoeuvers. To realize his “panoramic portraits” on a large scale from a high vantage point (like for example the famous sign at the air base of Lackland in 1947), the American photographer used an enormous camera: a Folmer Graflez Cirkut Camera mounted on a platform that he climbed on accompanied by his assistants reaching a heigh of sixty meters.

It is not a coincidence that Massimo Vitali’s photographs and those of Goldbeck were both exhibited in 1998 in the XXIX edition of the “Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie” curated by Giovanna Calvenzi, it was entitled Un nouveau passage human. Like Goldbeck’s work in this time, Vitali’s images have also contributed to the definition of a “new landscape” where humans, not the absent or marginal human figures that belong to a great part of the Italian photographic production of contemporaries like Gabriele Basilico and Mimmo Jodice, has returned to the role of protagonist, like in the series “Paesaggio Italiano” by Giovanni Chiaramonte.

In terms of comparison Vitali’s unusual landscapes, overthrowing the perspective view of a “postcard” make up a real and proper map of places for amusement and relaxation, fragments of a disorganized atlas with no scales, where history’s time cohabitants with news time, but not ended the Italian visual cultura, but instead what emerged at the end of the Seventies with the exhibit “New Topographics, Photographs of a Man – Altered Landscape”.

The exhibit, in which the Bechers also participated, initiated the task of reconnaissance of relics of modernity in black and white, that marked the beginning of a particular genre of landscape photography intended as an objective survey of humans’ modification of the environment.

Even if the photographer can be compared to the Bechers for their encyclopedic attitude, in which the role of the photographer appears to be limited to sampling of data on reality conducted from a  continent detail to a universal model, Vitali’s images set themselves apart from theirs for the inverse dialectic procedure, going from the general to the specific, as if to underline the complexity of appearances and reconfirm the impossibility of reducing them into a cataloguing.

Desdemona Ventroni, "The Photographer’s Finger" in Massimo Vitali Photographer, catalogue of the exhibition “Massimo Vitali” at the Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci - Prato, July 2nd - October 3rd, 2004.