Mirta d’Argenzio: How did you select the sequence that makes up the 12 Short Stories and what did you most want to highlight?
Massimo Vitali: In selecting the sequence, I tried to put together photos that were fairly different to one another. Photos of beaches, others not of beaches. Light and not light photos. Pastel photos and others with more decisive colours. Photos with dominants greens. Photos with saturated reds. Photos with large white spaces. All different photos. They are in part chronological. Without a true order. The first is a classic Rosignano. From there we stay with the light, but next reddens. The next becomes even redder with even more people. Then we move to a green background. The green remains in the passages between the people and you can sense the volcano. Then the sea comes back and there is a kind of evolution. They are correlated visually.

MdA: This sequence was initially born on paper, for the book Short Stories as your 12 best photographs, in the sense of a series from the beginning of your career. You chose 12 out of 4,976 negatives. How did you come to choose each of the individual images from the many and as your favourites and in what way?
MV: I chose them because obviously I’m more attached to certain images because I like them more. Then I have to say I also conducted a survey among those who know the work and a series of blind tests.

MdA: Let’s start with the first, Rosignano 3 Women, from 1995, what do you see?
MV: Rosignano is the first place you have to go to in Tuscany if you want a white beach. Like I did at the start, I placed my tripod in the water to capture the sea and the coast. In this photo this geometry of people in the water materialized and hence it immediately became a cardinal photo for my work. I think I went to Rosignano a couple of times and took in total around 20 shots. This is the one I’m most fond of. Partly because the first ones I took to someone who developed them very badly, ruining them. Certain photographers spend years photographing the same things and think that they’ve peaked. But if you know what you want – you do it quickly. Taking three photos is better than taking six. And if you do it in half a day it’s better than taking a month. This is how I work.

MdA: The second is Riccione Black Bikini, a legendary photo that was also exhibited at the Biennale, by Harald Szeemann in 2001. Can you tell what you remember?
MV: I remember exactly how things went. I’d gone to photograph the discotheques at Riccione, and I was in Fellini’s famous hotel on the beach.
After having gone to bed at 5:30 I woke up in the morning and saw this incredible place. I called Giovanni and said to him: “Let’s take the photo.” We made a diptych and two single photos. In total we took four negatives within 20 minutes or so and then we went home. Done.

MdA: The third photo, Viareggio Air Show, was taken in 1995. How did it come about?
MV: It was one of the photos taken during the Frecce Tricolori air display. All the people are watching the planes, which is the only thing we don’t see.
I had set up on the edge of the beach and no one could go into the sea and the people were very varied, very composite. Interesting. Perhaps it is much more interesting today to see how we were in 1995. Which is actually one of the keys to reading my photos. Not the only one. You need to know how to see the passage of time. The anthropological vision.

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