Massimo Vitali

Italian, 1944–present

Intent on providing a commentary on the concepts of free time and leisurely activities, Vitali photographs bathing people on beaches. These seemingly peculiar images at the first glance in fact tell a lot about our society and how we plan our lives. His reflection is that the invention of free time is a phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries, which has a strong link to consumption and other social forces.

Early on, Vitali realized that documentary and journalistic photography cannot reliably convey reality, and he developed his own brand of conceptual photography. His Beach Series from 1995 is a starting point with shots taken on top of podiums 5 meters above ground, showing people on beaches in Italy. Vitali uses large-format cameras and makes colour images which, seen from the high vantage point, get a deep perspective and are full of details. Similarly, the series Tropea (2015) is a white, sandy beach in Calabria overlooked by a vertical lime-stone cliff with old houses built on top of it. It reminds the viewer of a time when people did not use the beach for recreation. Contrast that with Knokke Diptych L which depicts the Belgian beach at Knokke-le-Zoute, a purpose-built beach resort with its ten-story apartment buildings from the 1960s.