If there's one place that is remote from Massimo Listri it is Matera. But Listri is close to everything and as such he is able to present an image of the town unknown to those who have seen it as a place of suffering and distress. The Sassi were here long before another photographer, Mario Cresci, sanctified them with a spiritual dimension full of painful memory. Listri steps outside the chambers of the heart and casts his eye on the buildings, caves, rockface churches and baroque basilicas and bestows on them order and harmony, eliminating pain and privation. Thus Matera, without pictorial rhetoric, appears unique, a corner of paradise for rstless souls who prefer the unruliness of a world so close to nature than the order of a powerful past.”


Vittorio Sgarbi
02 July 2018

Massimo Listri, phographer, is also a priner and manager of his art, and moreover a dandy, libertine, picaro, bibliophile, collector and bon vivant. To these qualities and activities must have contributed his contact with people like Franco Maria Ricci and Vittorio Sgarbi, since the foundatios of “FMR”, the most beautiful art magazine in the world, that he launched at the beginning of the 80s. Next to them, even though of the same age of Vittorio, he appeard an an eternal boy, a pupil, in the academic sense, with a smile that physiognomically, today even more, underlines his Etruscan roots. Vittorio himself created for Massimo the distinctive label of a “photographer that never documents but invents beaty”. Be it landscapes, architectures, interiors, or sculptures, if they're famous he let us discover with new emotion; if they're unknown they emanate the magic of an invention. As testified by Matera's views exhibited here or certain corners of the Museum Home Cavallini Sgarbi in Ro Ferrarese, where a tight composition of heterogeneous works, the result of Vittorio's recurrent manipulations, is translated by his lens in a fulgurating Wunderkammer.

Mario Andreose - Milanesiana
02 July 2018


 In the great photographic paintings of Massimo Listri the meticulous virtuosity marries happily with a rare and collected poetic value. These two qualities combined, in my opinion, by Massimo Listri one of the most valid and original artists of our time.






Ranieri Gnoli
10 June 2018

What makes his work unique is how he has made interiors look so absolutely vivid, as if they had a secret life of their own that only he knows how to portray. Listri has the extraordinary ability to capture all the small details that make the difference and reveal all the stories that remain hidden behind the surface. Listri's photos transmit an almost deafening silence, as if time had stopped and humans had suddenly disappeared and the only thing reminiscent of them are the interiors they've left behind, the remains of their lives and their passions, their art and their culture.

Apostolos Mitsios
08 September 2017

To illustrate his fascinating journey through the antique collections of classical archaeology of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci has put Massimo Listri’s photographic eye to good use, being one of the most renowned and respected photographers worldwide for his remarkable photographs of architecture and interiors. This was a perceptive choice made by the Director of the Vatican Museums, as the well-known Florentine master’s preferred locations for expression have always been the most significant and emblematic places of culture and art collections.

In fact Massimo Listri comes to the Vatican Museums with vast artistic experience. For more than three decades of his career, he has photographed a composite universe

of ancient and modern art museums, noble palaces, stately homes and princely gardens, aristocratic and monastic libraries, palatine archives, all of which are united by the same distinguishing characteristic: they all belong to that group of places which have played a fundamental cultural role over the centuries and that stand out as prominent centres of knowledge, art and world civilisation. A marvellous collection of places that are full of history, which Listri systematically portrays in the essentiality of their forms, in absolute solitude where any tangible form of human presence is censored, thereby giving each space back its individual ident ity, its most profound soul.

It is not easy to talk about Listri’s artistic production without running the risk of being repetitive or appearing conventional, because in actual fact a great deal has already

been said and written about him by authoritative and prominent figures in the world of culture, as an introduction to or commentary in the countless publications and exhibitions that have embraced and hosted his works. However, to fully understand Listri’s approach to photography, it is essential to remember that beauty is its founding criterion for inspiration. Inevitably, this is the term which is used in the apparatus criticus when commenting on his work and when correctly outlining his personal stylistic mark.

Listri is the photographer who invented beauty. Vittorio Sgarbi declared this when underlining how Listri’s vision educates the observer’s eye to apprehend all that one might risk not seeing behind the actual image as well; in particular the harmonious volumes of the rooms that he elegantly portrays by extending the field of vision to its furthest limit. Giovanni Pallanti defines Listri a hero of beauty, recalling how his work transforms reality with a highly imaginative touch that is so incisive that it transcends photography into a truly creative art, and that the originality of this role lies in the desire to make the human world, which is so often grey, worn-out and tired, beautiful.

But it is also our photographer to say in no uncertain terms that beauty is the only category from where he draws inspiration and guidance for his work, with all the relevant aspects of equilibrium, order and harmony that come as a result of it; and it is always the desire to capture and give back the intimate poetry of the represented space that determines the taking of each photograph. It is in this sense that the omission of any complementary presence in Listri’s works, in particular a human presence, is decisive. Nothing must intervene to alter the final outcome of his interpretation; nothing can take precedence over fully revealing the beautiful image. Cesare Cunaccia underlines this, when he reminds us that for the Florentine artistic photographer the removal of the uman figure is fundamental, in order to prevent that the figure, with its inherent peculiarities of expression and character, can interfere with the scene.

To achieve his objective, that of photographing absolute beauty, Listri entrusts himself to his artistic instinct, activating a creative process based on a precise selection of the spaces to photograph and on an accurate and formal composition of the photograph; thus a rigorous choice of the point of view, of the depth of perspective and of the geometry of the shots that, as Giorgio Antei notes, for their equilibrium and symmetry, resemble authentic rhymes. Finally, light is also an essential aspect, fundamental to capture each and every detail and natural light is always and deliberately used, during the most suited

hours of the day. These are all elements of utmost importance which our photographer draws from the great masters of painting, having for many years trained his eye in particular on the work of masters such as Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio and Vermeer.

Massimo Listri’s photographs, or better his portraiture of spaces, that finely capture art and architecture, clearly look to those that are the most noble and worthy that human civilization has produced over the course of its history. For this reason, the spectacular, all-encompassing compositions that he captures, in the words of the afore-cited Pallanti, become proof that man is not only the destroyer of the universe’s harmony but is also, and

above all, the creator of extraordinary works. At the same time, these compositions become a courageous attempt to defend intelligence and culture from the aberrations and scars that modern daily life produces.

Although seemingly missing from the scenes that are photograph, humans equally leave one to feel their presence through those interiors which are the finest and most vital trace of their having been present, the most fruitful sign of their existence, the supreme witness of their art and culture. It is in this sense that Listri’s images, as he himself declares, can be considered an exemplification of the metaphysical poetry of the presence-absence

and that therefore, despite the omission of the individual figure, the observer of the photographs has the feeling of being in the presence of a soul, of sensing a human


The loyalty that Listri shows to depict reality, combined with a descriptive and verifiable point of view that is free from complex or arbitrary compositional games, means that his work is linked to the tradition of the important documentary photography, with which however, he does not share the basic principles. Indeed, the apparent lack of interest in the individual and the attention paid to the spaces that at first glance are completely abandoned, allow us to get closer to his creations, to the vast genre of work that we know as the photography of spaces; a genre that focuses on the investigation of the contemporary landscape, deeply rooted in that same documentary tradition, that goes back to the production by masters such as Walker Evans and to the fundamental research

conducted at the Düsseldorf School of Photog raphy. 

Nevertheless, Massimo Listri’s photographs of spaces, rather than being witnesses to the marginality, incoherence and chaos that have taken over the world with devastating changes – whether it be social, architectural or in the landscape – due to the transition to the post-industrial era, offer an aesthetic solution that in the substantial and systematic search for beauty, wants to curb and exorcise that chaotic fragmentation. Listri takes beautiful photos in beautiful locations, thus beauty doubled and Camillo Langone confirms this when giving Listri the title of most elegant photographer in Italy. This is also true of his photographs in the Vatican Museums, as can be clearly seen in the extraordinary plates that accompany the museum path laid out by Antonio Paolucci and by the splendid large-format photographs that were exhibited at the same time as publishing this book, so as to

appreciate their artistic nature in the flesh. It is enough to remember just one of all the images: that of the Greek Cross Hall, where the majesty of the antechamber of the Pius Clementine Museum is given back to us in a perfect symmetry of spaces, volumes and colours wrapped in an intense metaphysical light and warmed by the invisible but reassuring gaze of the two sphinxes, that being photographed from behind, silently watch over the overall harmony.

Indeed, Langone’s statement appears in our case, to be particularly pertinent. If the classical collections of sculpture recounted by the Director of the Vatican Museums reveal a truly privileged setting for the artistic photograph, for Massimo Listri’s artistic research they are an even more natural point of reference. Here grace, elegance, harmony, equilibrium and beauty tout court fill the worlds depicted; for this reason, in the idea of Antonio Paolucci, the visitor who comes here is fulfilled in the same way as the spectator who looks at these photographs and he will find the silent tranquillity that Listri recognises as the essence of his work, as a true therapy for the soul; a condition that only the fortunate visitor can experience in a salutary and solitary visit to the Museum.


Rosanna Di Pinto
23 September 2014

Loosing oneself in Massimo Listri's images, strong oneiric webs entwine themselves in one's thoughts. Mainly they are dreams, dreams which in any case, contrary to what happens normally when we realise to be dreaming, are inexpungeable from our minds forevermore...

Cesare Cunaccia
18 September 2013



Today, two years after the exhibition put on in his Gallery by the antiques dealer Bacarelli, I saw the more formal show “The Museums of Florence”.

In view of the nature of the Exhibition and the Illustrious Venue in which it is being held, it was to be feared that your work might suffer from the official character of the occasion, contradicting what I had told you about that precious Florentine exhibition.

It is true that most photographs collected nowadayssum up, with various degrees of intensity, our visual culture, sometimes of the most obvious sort, but I am also able to find the quality of absencein these photos, in which you have reduced to the essential the perception of forms, which appear as themselves, with nothing ornamental to facilitate their interpretation.

As is your wont, you continue not to rely on special effects, nor on lights, nor on pretty colours; as is also your wont you censor all additional presences, including humans, which might make your work more engaging, and indeed, among the many exemplary proofs, those that carry most weight are the ones where even the colour yields to the extreme simplification of black and white, to the appeal and the necessity of the sign.The Lorenese Staircase in the Uffizi Gallery, the Ballroom in the Pitti Palace and the Poccianti Staircase, the two Lapidariums at Palazzo Bardini, through to Michelangelo’s work at San Lorenzo and the library by Michelozzo at San Marco all bear witness to this approach.

Design, imagination and representation of projects in the making,not yet destined to become monuments, are revealed and revived in the ancient proportions, in the geometric divisions of surfaces, in the recurrences of solids and voids, in the tactile perception of materials, which recreate spaces in which it would be possible to live, to breathe.

Deserted places, depicted without the strains of artifice, are inhabitable from within; there is nothing captivating about them, which might involve creating any sort of effects, but rather a fundamental realistic evidence where even the air can be perceived according to its different values. This is why your portraits of environments are fixed in a time vacuum, like discoveriesthat are extraneous to the chances and accidents of the historical account.

It is thought that rarely can a craft become an art, and almost never a style. And yet yours strikes me as one such case.

Good luck with your work.


Yours truly

Roberto Coppini

Roberto Coppini
10 October 2009



Cristina Acidini
20 September 2009

There are a number of present-day Italians who, had they been born at the right time, would certainly have been with Gabriele D'Annunzio at Fiume, the holocaust city that just after the end of World War I aligned against the injustices of the world and the arrogance of the powerful in the name of a beauty that, for its intrinsic harmony, cannot tolerate any defilement of the balance between reason, truth, and grace. This group of present-day Italians, I think, would have included Giuliano Ferrara, Camillo Langone, Vittorio Sgarbi and Massimo Listri (in addition to the author of these lines). What these people have in common is the relish of intellectual provocation, a refined culture and an aesthetic sense conceived as the driving force of history. Obviously, the author of these lines would have been just a good follower, a petty officer of the above-named handful of heroes of beauty: all of them, surely, officers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Camillo Langone, in his book II collezionista di città, defines Massimo Listri as “the most elegant photographer of Italy”. This song of Langone’s love and esteem for Listri was written by the most sophisticated and glamorous pen of Italian and European literary journalism. In the end, Camillo Langone aligns with the greatest Italian photographer who has earned a place of world renown in the art of photography. It is a natural team effort that the above-mentioned small band of heroes of beauty must carry out to defend the “citadel” of intelligence and culture from the aberrations and the disfigurements brought on by the everyday life of today’s world. 

But what is Listri’s photography? A step back: art is the artifice per excellence; painting, sculpture, as well as architecture, going beyond the reality, becoming a version of the real that ripened in the mind and heart of the artist. For this transformation of the real, what becomes beautiful is that which is not there in the objective truth that each of us, in our own minds, believes to be the right one. The traces of men and women, in all the lands of our planet, are a wound to the natural creation; only artistic creation can transform this wound and make a violent alteration of nature poetic. For this reason photography is considered to be a lesser art: documentary, journalistic, naturalistic when it reproduces a rural landscape, a forest, the stones of a river or a sunset over the water. When it photographs people, it becomes a psychological document, perhaps an important document, but limited to reproducing the reality and rarely becoming a work of art. The originality of Massimo Listri’s photography, on the other hand, is that of making beautiful the world of mankind that is often tired and worn out. Through his lens, that which eludes the human eye, the harmony and elegance present in every human construction but often hidden behind the real image, becomes visible and comprehensible even for non-experts of photography. An architecture, a piece of furniture, a bookcase or a table becomes the proof that man is not only the destroyer of the harmony of Creation but also the creator of fabulous works, wrenched from nature and re-constructed in consequence of a historical period, of the tastes, the times, and a way of living inside a house. 

This is why Massimo Listri is considered to be a great photographer of interiors and of architecture: from his photographs one perceives the atmosphere that man is able to give to the things he builds. A garden can be the ideal space for explaining the life choices of an elite. A piece of furniture becomes a manufactured product in which to deposit the idea of the useful and the harmonious. The interior of a home becomes a dream of power or a dream of an elegance and a tranquillity that do not exist on the streets of the world. Like the large photographs published here amply attest, the photography of Massimo Listri transforms the real with an imaginative and creative participation that transcends photography into a true creative art. Listri conceives and carries out the artistic operation as a pure mental elaboration. He engages in a manipulation of the subject being photographed, accentuating the pre-eminence of the mental dimension with respect to the real that he photographs. In this creative act, Massimo Listri also becomes a great conceptual photographer. Because of this ability, Vittorio Sgarbi has defined Listri as “the photographer who invents beauty”. Massimo Listri intervenes, following the photographic shot, in retouches of lighting and of atmospheres that make his dreamy way of photographing the real unequalled. In this mastery, Listri achieves levels of excellence that make him more a sculptor or a painter than a photographer. This is the masterpiece of Listri, who in his craft has developed an artistic path that makes him the comrade-in-arms of that small band of heroes of beauty who, in their various professions, have earned fame and respect in the grey world in which, sadly, we live today.

Giovanni Pallanti
10 September 2009


Dear Listri,

I saw your show again. Everyone knows that you are good, and that you are also elegant, but neither of the two adjectives, being, as they are, relative, do you justice. 


You are an extraordinary scenographer, availing yourself of a quantity of visual materials that you expertly compose, or re-compose, by means of changes, even minimal changes, of perspective or light, of intonationI would say. Though these pictures are destined for a theatre where no actors appear, they never lack the presence of those who have walked onto the stage or who are just about to. This is your craft. 


In this exhibition, however, there is much more, because the whole of your works bear witness, without adjectives, to the quality of absence. It is true that the scenes are usually deserted, but the difference is that here, in these apparitions, no one is expecting anyone. We are at the zero temperature of the “modern”, understood, when it is authentic, in its rigorous purity.


Let me explain. The Castle of Aglié, the Royal Palace of Stockholm, the Castle of Rivoli, the Royal Palace of Caserta, are the highest points of the discourse you propose. 

Conversely, the light cannon at the Archive of the Indies in Seville, the octagonal chair at Pierrefond, the lit lantern that appears below the staircase in the Royal Palace of Stockholm, are clues that induce to a different measure, thewaiting. Someone manned the cannon, someone was seated, someone lit the lantern. The immobility is transformed into the motion of the past or future event.

Off the subject, instead, appearthe fabulous Versailles/Manhattan nocturnal version, the Atelier of scandalous (although gratifying) impressionistic memory. 


Obviously, the photographic qualities are not questioned, but the passage to a different scale of values. A difference that is the dividing line between a noble craft and art. Without adjectives, indeed, or capital letters. 


Please accept my greetings and best wishes for your work.


Yours sincerely,

Roberto Coppini

Roberto Coppini
06 October 2007

So his gaze began to seek places and symmetries without particular monumental importance. A wall, a room, a geometry, the archtype of which, the root of memory of which, was within him rather than in the external history.

Vittorio Sgarbi
12 July 2003