So what is a photographer? Literally, someone who writes with light. But we all know that this definition is limited to etymology and is completely insufficient. Certainly light is essential to photography but, in and of itself, it is not enough. One also needs lenses, chemistry (which is currently being replaced by an almost generalized numerisation) and then some othe elements that are not completely indifferent, like paper or some other type of support. The photographer is then the person who combines these elements to produce images that establish a unique relatorship with reality. They are not simple representations. They are representations caused by their referent. As Roland Barthes wrote in La camera chiara, what they demonstrate “a été”, what was. If not retouched, photography is a sample of time that continues onward, eventually it becomes a type of proof: for this reason, a retouched photograph has always been and will become more so the confirmation “the opposite” of its nature. Not all instant photographs are “décisif”, in the definition that Cartier-Bresson has given this term, but all of them one day or another will be used in a temporality in order to conserve a visible fragment capable of being looked at in another, more or less, defined period.

Photographs move us for this reason; they are physical objects, even if they are very modest, which imply a metaphysical dimension. In their materialness, which is often extremely banal, is inscribed in such a way as to be absolutely specific, not only a smal piece of space reduced to two dimensions, but also, according to the terminology used by the stoics, another “incorporeal” to qualify reality: time.

It is only logical to acknowledge that art also attempts in its own way to incorporate something of time. (It would be quite natural here to consider music but it would take us too far away from Massimo Vitali’s work. So let us limit ourselves to the visual arts.) That something temporal is written in paintings, sculpture or architecture seems to be banally evident. Many paintings have even tried to tell stories. But in the end the only temporality that is truly written in the physical structure of painting, and all the other visual arts, is that of their realization. Faced with the trace of the brush, causality brings us directly to the artist’s hand, his gesture. his mind, but surely not to the reality that he was painting and it appears to us only as a representation. […]

Especially in the reflections that cannot help coming to mind while looking at the photographic work of Massimo Vitali. Unlike many other contemporary photographers who have the assumption of producing art before photography, his images present themselves as essentially photographic. Even though many people use photography, reducing it to a simple formal symbol of itself to find themselves outside of this rhetoric typical of painting, Vitali produces images that adhere “millimetre after millimetre” to their photographic nature. To begin with, his subjects are figures that could be chosen by any photographer. Many anthropological or political reasons can justify the choice of the crowded beaches, vacations in the mountains, touristy streets or discotheques, places that have been his favourites up until now. But the most important reason is the simple fact that these are places that eveyone takes photographs: a type of photography intended as un art moyen according to the title of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s book**.

 

**P. Bourdieu, L. Boltanski, R. Castel, J.-C. Chamboredon, Un art moyen, essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie, Paris, Minuit, 1965.

Daniel Soutif, "Massimo Vitali Photographer" 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.