How Mr Massimo Vitali Takes His Epic Beach Photos
Mr Massimo Vitali. Photograph by Mr Paul Barbera/Where They Create
Contemporary photographer Mr Massimo Vitali shares his tips on how to take the perfect beach shot.
Mr Massimo Vitali is one of contemporary photography’s most celebrated figures, known primarily for his large-format photographs of crowded beaches packed with tourists, as aesthetically pleasing as they are bitterly sarcastic. Formerly a reportage photographer and commercial cinematographer, Mr Vitali brings an incomparable eye for storytelling to his work in which clusters of figures, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings, echo the complex narratives of great paintings and biblical scenes. Only… in bikinis.
“Lampedusa”, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery
When MR PORTER visited Mr Vitali’s home in 2015 for a My Space feature in The Journal, he was full of stories about the resonances within his work. “What is important,” he explained, “is the complexity of the thing. The idea that you have many, many layers within a picture, you can’t look at just one. And the more contradictory things, the better.”
“Lençois Lagoa do Peixe”, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery
But don’t just take it from him – this week there comes a rare opportunity to see Mr Vitalis’ awe-inspiring images up close, as he launches a solo exhibition at London’s Ronchini gallery. The show – which is his first in London for five years – is one of the many satellite events of the Photo London photography festival, now in its sophomore year. As part of the festival, Mr Vitali, a great raconteur as well as a great photographer, will be holding a live discussion with Mr Tobia Bezzola, director of the Folkwang Museum, Essen, in the Photo London Auditorium at Somerset House.
“Cala Mariolu Coda”, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery
“The assistants build this thing: it’s an 18-feet tall scaffold. I put the tripod on top of the scaffolding, and by the time I’ve got there, they set the camera with a spirit level so it’s perfect, flat. And then the picture is there already.”
BE A VOYEUR
“You start looking at the scene. You start following things. And then you think, oh, what if that person goes here, or that person looks there. So you start making connections. This is very voyeuristic, in a way. But photography, for me, is about being voyeuristic. You start thinking what people are thinking. And then you get into the idea. You have to follow what’s going on.”
TIME IT RIGHT
“People get to the beach and then there is a build-up of tension up to a certain point in the day. Say you get there in the morning. By 10.30am or 11.00am, there is already an amount of people, and then it builds until 3.30pm. At 4.00pm, it’s dissolving, the tension for the occupation of the space. For the person looking, the little stories start to fade. I like it at the high point because I don’t like the shadows so much, so I shoot when the sun is really vertical. That accounts for the very few shadows in my work. The almost vertical shadow.”