City of Strangers: Lviv Photographs

It goes without saying that we mostly lead our lives among strangers:  this is the empirical truth for most people who live in cities, and large towns, and even small towns.  The number of people we count as acquaintances, much less friends, is overwhelmed by the number of people we don’t know, and will never know.  This is not to say that they are all people whom we see only once, don’t recognize, and never speak to.  Strangers are not ghosts or shadows.  Some of them cross our paths regularly, are to be found in predictable locations, and interact with us in familiar, usually minimal ways.  I would venture that the difference between a stranger and not-a-stranger has less to do with someone’s familiarity or unfamiliarity, and more to to with the emotional and psychic idiom in which we understand them to address us.  We encounter strangers; we meet friends.  We go out among strangers; we go out with friends.  We have contact with strangers; we have relationships with friends.  We feel for strangers; we have feelings about friends.  

I would venture further that each of us has a city––perhaps one we have already visited, perhaps not––whose strangers are uncommonly alive to us, inexplicably interior to us.  Each of us has a city of strangers who bring the condition of the stranger into dimensional reality, a city that manages to energize the ancient Jewish injunction “Remember the stranger!” into an urgent message.  That city, for me, is Lviv.  My Lviv keeps calling me back, for reasons I can only begin to understand by going there, and making pictures.  My Lviv is not a home and will not become one, and also is not a place to escape to, a getaway.  Perhaps, to paraphrase the poet Jack Spicer, it is like this:  if the artist is one for whom intrusions cause a loss of balance that results in the artist coming to life artistically––ceasing to be a dead person, a merely lonely person––then Lviv, my city of strangers, is the city of relevant, necessary intruders.  Lviv, my city of strangers, makes a stranger out of me, in most vital senses.

The sequence of pictures here makes a way through Lviv in many visits between 2015 and 2017.

Jason Francisco, October 2017