There is little overt strangeness in the works, but the photograph on page 93 is strange indeed. This view consists of what appear to be, in the far background, skyscrapers and a fort and a pagoda of almost transparent ice, and, perhaps, a long, swooping staircase up to an apartment block. In the foreground, people may be sculpting or admiring a ghost-like figure of ice, and others are taking pictures of it, and directly in the front are a woman and a little girl, the woman, with an Asian face, staring out at us. High up the apparent stairs, on what may be a balcony of the apparent apartment block, is the dark figure of a man, the only inhabitant of that fantastic city of ice.

If there was obvious irony in the details, it was, I thought, on page 63, in the scene of a town square and people standing on what appears to be a stage, and, in the foreground, what seems to be a puppet theatre; I stopped on this to ask, was it a comment on the stage-like square, the puppet theatre simply stating that all the world is a stage? The detail bothered me for being too obvious an interpretation of the photograph. I realised that I wanted details that could not be interpreted as a comment in the way that the puppet theatre might be. I was searching for significant details which would make me wonder at the whole photograph, and I did find these in the square, great monoliths of stone, some doubled, some higher than the people standing about, and I found, at the back of the square, a monumental black upright circle through which some people are staring, and in the right far corner of the square is a slim but gigantic white statue poised on a broken rock.

In the photograph on page 101, a group of people, young and old, form a tight wedge defined by long red and white tapes, and outside the densely crowded wedge stands a soldier in khakis, wearing a red beret, sunglasses, and a face mask, looking away from the camera. Beyond this wedge of people appears a police vehicle, and beyond this is a vast area of almost white and what may be a long line of interconnecting white tents, and beyond those what appears to be a terminal of some kind, and through the pillars of this building a view to the grey horizon and many tall poles topped with what may be antennae. My eye comes back to the wedge of people defined by the red and white tape to a standing man, old, wearing a sagging dark grey shirt, his hands in his pockets, looking, perhaps, in the same direction as the soldier; he wears a woollen cap of red and white stripes. Who are these people, confined, waiting? Because of the number of headscarves on the women, they may be refugees from Syria, and the photograph may be a comment on their condition.

Something in me, some basic appreciation of art, whatever that may be, wanted to save the photograph from comment, perhaps in this case political, about the world we in fact do live in. Again, this apparent comment bothered me, and I again searched for some shifting, diffusing point in the photograph, but the more I searched the more it struck me that everything in the photograph came together to make a powerful statement without irony; an imperative, that to have any vision of the world is to see the pity of it all. This imperative stayed with me.

David Plante, The Photographs of Massimo Vitali, Specially Written Contribution, February 11, 2020.