Sophie Biass-Fabiani: You’ve said that the beach is the place where social barriers lower themselves. Do you really believe that? Don’t you think that we can guess the social provenance even from a naked body?

Massimo Vitali: Of course, there is a sign language, a language for which we know the signs. Tattoos are an important sign, it’s not for me to tell what tattoos mean, but it corresponds to a certain type of society that would like to be more transgressive than it really is. Tattoos allow people to feel transgressive without really being it. The swimsuit reveals the body type: there are bodies that are not well-maintained, but also bodies who are in shape, body-builders who do not belong to a more elevated social class but they are in shape! There is a bit of confusion in that, it’s not always that clear.

It’s not like in a city where there are neighborhoods with poor people and other neighborhoods for rich people. People who are dressed in a certain way indicate that they belong to a particular social class, it means that if the police demand the ID of people dressed a certain way, with a particular face, than the problem is the color of their skin. That also happen on the beach. But I think that it is a bit more difficult to see the social differences, that’s why I look for the public beaches, not the ones where you pay to go.

There, there are people who do not have money to go to the private beaches or who don’t want to or who have just 3 hours because they’re traveling with a Mercedes 500 and want to jump in the water, and they are there with all the others. Consequently, there are people who do not belong to the same social class on the beach, and it’s not so evident which class they belong to. There is always an exception to the rule.

Sophie Biass-Fabiani: Are there any differences between Italian and French beaches in term of human behaviors?

M.V.: I’ve photographed French beaches and Italian ones that are slightly different. People are not that different. There are always laughing kids, that are a bit annoying, that’s banal. The real difference is that on French beaches there is always the presence of a State Authority like the police, firemen, a strong and constant presence of the State, but not in Italy. On private beaches, there is a swimming teacher who cannot say anything if someone does stupid things. The French people are more controlled, I’m not saying that it’s not good, but it is a difference that I find between the beaches in Italy and France. In Italy it’s a bit more “without rules”.

Sophie Biass-Fabiani & Massimo Vitali in Les plages du Var, Hotel des Arts - Centre méditerranéen d'art Conseil général du Var, May 1, 2000.