How, finally, could I react to the photograph on page 197, the almost naked people standing as if still (there is in all photographs a sense of stillness)  on black rock, charcoal-black, and I asked, what are they doing there, there where I can find no detail to act as an ironical signifier to an alternative place, there where there are no umbrellas, no blankets, where nothing grows, and nothing is beautiful? These are overwhelming questions, which no answers can satisfy.

And, help me God, how could I react to the double page, overlapping spread on pages 186 and 187, of people with hardly any space among them to move about, up to their shoulders in water? One detail may have added a dimension, a high flight of stairs down to the massive headland of boulders, a flight of stairs which all those there had descended, down into the depths of their essential elements, stone and water.

Massimo Vitali may say to me that his photographs are just that, photographs, and I understand this as guarding against a presumptuous vision that may be entirely mine. My vision is of our bodies that as most ours when we’re naked, a vision of each of us alone when we are in the midst of masses of people, and, to return to what I began this essay by observing, the vision of inhabitants in a uninhabitable world, some of them looking away beyond this world, maybe with wonder. But there remains that imperative: these photographs are to me filled with the pity that such a vision arouses, pity for an old world that was tried and failed, pity for vulnerable people trying to adjust to the stark, hard facts of their new world.  To me, the pity has everything to do with compassion for all of human beings. This is it, this is what the photographs are about. They move me powerfully, emotionally and intellectually.

And there is this: the photographs are very beautiful.

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