Mirta d’Argenzio: Cala Llosa South 2016. This is one of your most recent photos and one of the digital photos on show. What is going on here?
Massimo Vitali: This is a digital photo that goes against all my photographic dogmas. Because there’s the sea, but not the beach. The rock is fantastic. The people are using the coast in various ways. It’s a photo that is completely different to all the others. Like in the discotheque where there’s a kind of wall of people, here there’s a dominant wall of rock. All things change. You try to accentuate the change. It would be tedious to always take the same beaches from the same angle and there is more to my research than just beaches. My research is about people. I like seeing people both close up and from a distance. We see it small, but when it’s printed it’s big. There are fewer people here and there are groups of people approaching nature differently to the beaches. Here nature is stronger, predominant.
Really for me there is no sense to the difference and all the discourse about digital and analogue. When printing all but disappeared and when black and white was overtaken, I no longer felt the need to use black and white. When film disappeared – and today it has no reason for being – and with a certain quality having been obtained in digital photography, I went ahead with digital photography. 2016 could be a good year that marks this change.

MdA: Catania Under the Volcano 2007 was taken in the summer and is one of your favourite photographs. Can you tell me what it is you particularly like about this landscape and what for you works in the image that you also included in the second Steidl volume?
MV: I like it because it has this really solid geometry. There is this geometrically formed grouping of people, defined by the scaffolding tubes that have been installed on the lava of the Catania coastline that comes from the Etna eruption of 1600 that obliterated beaches. The people of Catania therefore need a place to access the sea. Every year the town council builds these platforms where the people go to eat and to swim before going back to work. This is the story of the photo. In the background you can intuit the volcano responsible for the landscape. From the volcano to the sea are the houses that form the suburbs of the city of Catania. It’s a photo that is very different to the other beaches, with these great masses of lava where it is impossible to build anything but the solariums that are dismantled and reassembled every year.
The sea has a very dark colour because the lava is black and reflects in the depths. It’s a rather remarkable situation and by no means banal.

MdA: Cefalù Orange Yellow Blue is from 2008. What has changed in the composition and in this shot?
MV: This is a traditional photo with the tripod in the water. In which the water is dominant. And above all the people in the water. There is a mother with her child on the right, a kind of very sweet portrait. There’s a family with a grandmother who has never been to the sea and is taken into the water by her grandchildren for the first time. She probably comes from the Sicilian countryside and doesn’t know how to swim. In the foreground there is a group of boys playing with a ball, with brightly coloured trunks that give the title to the photo.
A whole series of short stories is framed by the house of the old town of Cefalù, rather theatrical houses that recall those of a nativity scene. Naturally, what is incredible is also this fantastic water. Certain photos have the beach as the protagonist. Others feature the water. Still others the greenery. Cefalù is all about composition, it’s more Breugel-esque. The you look at other photos and the people are more confused. The stories are more difficult to identify. So, my photos are not all the same.

Mirta D'Argenzio, Interview with Massimo Vitali, catalog of the exhibition Short Stories at Mazzoleni Gallery in London, April 12 - May 24, 2019.