Etymology may sometimes help us to understand a word to weight up its true significance: in German neighbours (Nachbarn) are actually the people who live nearby and strangers (Fremde) those who are far away. But in today’s modern metropolises, those nearby - neighbours- are distant from each other and remain strangers, despite their spatial proximity.
But how do people we don’t know become familiar to us? Present day cities are anonymous, and neighbors are separated by walls; of course they live next door to one another, but often without being aware of each other. Arabella Schwarzkopf lived in cities where her neighbours were strangers. Only when she followed up her own curiosities and took photographs of them, drawing them out of anonymity, did the relationship change. It is true that the camera can depict strangers, but perhaps it is also able to turn them into people that we know?
And so Schwarzkopf crossed the boundary between the public and the private space with her 8x10“ wooden camera.
The geopgraphical position of each city is rarely of any significance. It is no wonder, when viewing the portraits of Ciy Lives, that each person could be anyone’s neighbour, in any place in the world.