The non-photographer takes a picture because something unexpected happens, he is not prepared, therefore more natural and more true. The exact opposite of what I do. I always have a plan.

Massimo Coppola: So from what I understand you love people photography because the amateur simply records something that happens, without a specific point of view or a set goal. The casual photographer with a mobile phone sees something that strikes him and records it, in a reactive and therefore natural, almost animalesque way, responding to a stimulus and even if he wanted to, he would not have the time and tools to organize a point of view…
Massimo Vitali: He can’t fool you. Especially with mobile phone videos, they show much more than the maker intended to show. They are free, true, much more than anything I could do. The non-photographer takes a picture because something unexpected happens, he is not prepared, therefore more natural and more true. The exact opposite of what I do. I always have a plan.

MC: The repeated neutrality of where the camera is – always the same perspective, almost always the same height, with only small variations clearly dictated by the “shape” of the place, are certainly strong elements. But so is the work you do in post-production, exalting the whites to make nature abstract, almost as if to want to erase it to show human beings even more “naked”, in their showy revealing full of color.
MV: This is a very good definition, I like what you says. In fact, I would like to make the beach less important: from the light colors of the beach I bring out the bodies, the shapes, the towels, the objects that humans carry with them. I look for my white to simplify the photo.
The viewer must focus on humanity, on who we are, on what we do when nothing happens. I’m not interested in photographing someone who shoots a rifle, for me it’s more important to know what you do when you don’t do anything. Most people do absolutely normal things, I’m interested in them: history is made up of normal people doing normal things.

“The reason I went to certain beaches to take certain photos this year was my curiosity to study the behavior of people after the lockdown. Then at the end you take the pictures and you realize that there is hardly any difference. You don’t see all these clues. Rightly so, because you don’t have to see anything.”

MC: One of the initial motives of your artistic research has to do with Berlusconi’s electoral victory in 1994.
MV: I was incredulous, yes. The day he won the elections I had to try to use a new tripod that I had built myself and since I was near Pietrasanta I said to myself “I’m going to the beach” and everything started from there.
I want to photograph people, but how do I photograph them on the beach? I put the tripod in the sea and so the people, who always look towards the sea, look towards me. And then I started getting interested in how people behave, how they move or don’t move.

MC: But what does Berlusconi have to do with it?
MV: I was shocked that a significant number of Italians had voted for Berlusconi. If I go to the beach and have two hundred people in front of me, about a hundred of them had voted for Berlusconi. I wanted to look them in the face, I wanted to understand.

MC: Did you understand something?
MV: Absolutely not, you never understand anything. I am always pushed by something, which then does not happen, like the photos taken after the lockdown. Is there a difference with the photos taken before? I don’t know.
The reason I went to certain beaches to take certain photos this year was my curiosity to study the behavior of people after the lockdown. Then at the end you take the pictures and you realize that there is hardly any difference. You don’t see all these clues. Rightly so, because you don’t have to see anything.

“To see nothing. The tragically significant and global events of our century all had the most effective visual communication, think of seeing wars unfold in real time or watching the twin towers on September 11th. Instead, the virus is an invisible enemy; hospital images were no different from hospital images in normal times. There was no way to represent the drama, if not by subtraction; the closed shops, the deserted streets.”

— Massimo Coppola

MC: How distant do you feel from your subjects?

MV: No distance at all.  I have never looked inside the camera, if you look inside the viewfinder it’s as if you are spying, I do not look in the camera, rather I am next to the camera looking at people, I feel very close to the people, and they do not feel spied on.
When you say you’re taking a picture, they immediately could care less. A photo is a trivial thing. Just the word photo is enough for them all to disappear, and then I become invisible. And I have plenty of time to freely observe everything that happens. My photos are printed very large because this measurement gives the viewer the possibility to have a dialogue with the photo, which is not possible on a screen. You see and you don’t see.
But on the other hand this is what saves me, if I sell the photos it is also because people want to have them at home, they want to appreciate them over time, they want to see them well. My collectors tell me the same things I feel, some figures in certain photos become like family members.

MC: Are you afraid that society could remain in this current state of sanitation, that your subjects will disappear?

MV: The pandemic will and will not end, like all things. The pandemic is like AIDS, it’s never over but nobody worries about it anymore. Already this summer people had forgotten about the pandemic, too much I would say, and after three or four lockdowns people will go back to doing what they have always done, whether there is a vaccine or not. The pandemic will become something that no one will think about anymore. It will be chronic. When AIDS began there was a real fear, you felt it, now everyone does what they like with everyone, no one thinks “maybe I don’t do this because there is AIDS”, even if they haven’t found the vaccine.

Fortunately, they found more effective treatments and therefore it has become a disease like any other. In my opinion it is easier for people to forget it than for a vaccine to be found. People will always be like this, we are social animals, we will tend to remain so. These things have already happened in the history of humanity, I don’t see why this should be an exception.