Life's a beach for Massimo Vitali

If you're ever sunbathing on a beach near Lucca there is a strong possibility that Massimo Vitali will be somewhere on the cliff tops, capturing the scene for one of his beach panoramas!

Vitali has a very distinct style, producing over-exposed and often minimalist scenes of beach-goers. His panoramas offer an alternative view of what can often be a ciched scene of yellow sand and blue sky above burning sun-worshippers  below. 

Having asked Massimo Vitali for permission to use one of his images to illustrate my blog post! I was very excited that he was more than happy for me to do so and that he invited me to ask him about his work. This was such an unexpected opportunity, I took some time thinking about what I could ask that would be worthwhile to myself and others. Having studied Digital Photographic Practice I was curious to his reasons for the way he processes his images, so that would be included in my interview with him below:

Matt: I really like how you over-expose your beach images. Is this to emphasise the beach-goers, or is there another reason for using this effect? 

Massimo: It's to get rid of the blue shadows that normally haunt beaches in the summer. 


Matt: what was it that inspired you to photograph beach scenes?

Massimo: Although I stumbled upon the beach subject quite by accident, I later understood that beaches are a very good mirror of our society. 


Matt: Was the beach a place that you enjoyed spending time at when you were younger? 

Massimo: Of course! And still enjoy my time on the beach (when I'm not taking pictures). 


I was extremely grateful for Massimo Vitali taking the time to give me further insight into his work. It has helped me to understand more about photographer's intentions and choices.

Massimo Vitali is currently working on two projects, 'Disco' and 'Pools'. These are two more settings where human interaction can be studied photographically. I find 'Pools' a particularly interesting concept. The swimming pool can be a place where people's inhibitions are washed away. The uniforms of hierarchy and responsibility are concealed in the changing rooms, creating a society of equality in the pool. No one person stands out from another.

Massimo Vitali's recent work can be viewed on his website at





Massimo Vitali

Vitali worked as a photojournalist and a cinematographer in the 1960's. Vitali's work is over-exposed like the sunbathers he is photographing. His images are characterised by large space or people packed together, unaware of him photographing above. Sunbleached images suggest subtle hues.

Marked contrast with Martin Parr's staged photography. Vitali's subjects are often unaware and those that see themselves in the final print are sent a free complimentary copy. 

Photo permission kindly granted by © Massimo Vitali


I tend to imagine famous photographers taking photographs with the same type of equipment as the general public. However this can't be the case due to the superior images that they are capable of producing. Vitalis' photographs are 6ft wide views of Italian beach-goers. Whilst working to coursework deadlines I have thought of my photographs as being part of finite projects, however knowing that Vitali' work is on-going reinforces to me that even after I have completed People and Place I should explore my ideas further. Vitali lives close to Pisa and often  revisits the rocky coastal areas with fresh eyes. He refers to the people in his panoramas as butterflies pinned in a case, because they can't escape. I wonder how many photographs we play a part in, blissfully unaware of our role as subject in another's image. 

For someone who dedicates so much time to photography you would think Vitali would have built up thousands of images and yet he states that: "In 15 years, I've only taken 4,500 negatives. When I have a good picture, I don't need to take 100 of them. It's there." It might take him all day to get 'the photo' he's after and then doesn't see the need to aimlessly clog up his camera with unwanted images. Out of the hundreds of images we take I wonder how many we will refer back to within a day, week, month or even a year. You can refer back to some of Massimo Vitali's work at his website