Pilgrims

Every two or three years the Catholic Church sponsors World Youth Day, this summer held in Kraków, Poland, where hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of visitors have converged––known locally as "pilgrims."  I have never seen an event quite like it.  The best way I can describe it is a city full of amped up adolescents who seem to have been released from a massive sleepaway camp of a fevered religious cult.  Throngs of youth march, shout, chant, sing, huzzah and romp through the city, accompanied by mostly dour and occasionally festive nuns and monks and priests in all manner of ritual garb.  Everyone seems to carry festival-issued backpacks in primary colors, adorned with a logo that looks to me like an upside down question mark whose dot has fallen to the bottom of a ditch––as if a symbolic dismantling of questions.  Many carry or are draped in the flags of their countries of origin.  The center of the city sports four large stages from which a variety of Christian pop and ethnic musics are performed, and outside the center is the massive stage from which the Pope himself and the highest clerical authorities of the church deliver their messages.  The photographs here are not a full account of this event, but instead a kind of cross between a visual anthropology and a visual phenomenology of the center of the city as gripped by it all.

July 2016, Kraków