A photographer, painter, director of film photography. Lives and works in Lviv.
Mykhailo Frantsuzov was born in 1956 in Lviv. His father, Mykhailo Ivanovych Frantsuzov, was an architect by background, even though he was a de facto photographer, too. From his father, he learned all the technical secrets of the photo craft, to further get more interested in photography as one of the possible ways for artistic expression. The artist's mother was a philologist. In 1975-1979, he studied at the Faculty of Architecture in the Lviv Polytechnic Institute. He studied in the same group as Andriy Sahaidakovskyi and Serhiy Bratkovskyi. In 1991, he entered the film-making faculty (majoring in film photography) at Ivan Karpenko-Karyi Kyiv National Institute of Theatrical Art. In the 1990s, he had some experience working in the film-making group of the Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi.
In 1975, when Mykhailo Frantsuzov started his studies at the Lviv Polytechnic Institute, he joined the "Semaphore" club at the House of Culture of Railway Workers (the so-called Rox). There, they studied photography and promoted amateur photograaphy. Later, along with fellow architects, he founded a group of amateur photographers Vezha ("Tower"). It was housed in the building of the Union of Architects — in the Gunpowder Tower on Pidvalna Street. The group organized exhibitions, all over the Soviet cities, and internationally. In the Soviet Union, photography was supposed to be social in the first place, to "reflect the anxiety and concerns of the compatriots, to record industrial and everyday relations of people, to show a human being of the "real socialism" epoch, without excessive embellishment" (Myronenko, 2009, 382). The Vezha's exhibition activities went beyond the limits of socialist realism. In 1984, her activities were criticized for being "formalist" and "apolitical", while Frantsuzov was dismissed from the executive position.
According to Alisa Lozhkina, curator at Mystetskyi Arsenal, the 1980s was the period to certainly have two parallel kinds of art — official and alternative (Lozhkina, 2017). Works by Mykhaio Frantsuzov refer to the latter. He was detached from social themes, deep in his own poetics; he was not interested in reporting about the pressing social issues. Contrariwise, he explores the pictorial principles of photographic footage, the correlation of forms and angles, the balance of diagonals; he operates with visual aspects of photography — the approach is alien to social realism art doctrine (Myronenko, 2009, 383). Halyna Khorunzha states that the photographer created his own language where he combined the experiments with the composition and with the techniques (Khorunzha, 2017). Because he was unable to shoot in color, he used the technique of coloring the black-and-white shots and created the aniline photos. Frantsuzov used it for laconic accents (Lytvynenko, 2017).
Mykhailo Frantsuzov belonged to the so-called "Aksinin circle." It was a creative community of non-conformists, intellectuals, and artists that developed around a graphic artist Oleksandr Aksinin. As part of this community, Frantsuzov documented Lviv and its events of the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the series of portrait photos taken in the 1980s, you can see by far all the bohemian community of the city of those times. Many of the photos have been lost since the author treated them as the daily method of fine-tuning his craft, and he did not treat them as art pieces (Hleba, 2018).
Today, the artist has already shifted from analog to digital photography.
Vul. Bandery, 12 – Lviv Polytechnic National University main building
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Vul. Fedkovycha, 32 – Railway employees' building of science and culture
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Vul. Pidvalna, 4 – Architects' Building (former Gunpowder Tower)
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Works and Projects
Mykhailo Frantsuzov's photographic legacy is digitized by the Urban Media Archive of the Center for Urban History
Personal exhibitions (selected):
2013 — Дигітальна реальність (Digital reality; Gary Bowman Art Gallery, Lviv)
2017 — Анілінова реальність (Aniline reality; Gary Bowman Art Gallery)
2017 — Indigоterra (Art 14 Gallery, Kyiv)
2015 — Exhibition 100+1 (Gary Bowman Art Gallery)
2017 — Львів: СОЮЗники (Lviv: Allies; National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv)
2019 — Exhibition of Mykhailo Frantsuzov and Halyna Zhehulska (Gary Bowman Art Gallery)
1. Viktoria Myronenko, "Problems of the Analysis of Photographs in the Context of the Photographic Art of Kyiv and Lviv in the late 1980s and early 1990s", Contemporary Art, 2009, No. 6, pp. 381-386 (Вікторія Мироненко, "Проблеми аналізу творів фотографії в контексті фотомистецтва Києва і Львова кінця 1980-х — початку 1990-х", Сучасне мистецтво, 2009, №6, с. 381–386)
2. Kateryna Lytvynenko, "Mykhailo Frantsuzov's Aniline Photopainting", HrinchenkoInform, 2017 (Катерина Литвиненко, "Аніліновий фотоживопис Михайла Французова", ГрінченкоІнформ, 2017) [accessed 13.11.2020]
3. Halyna Hleba, "Mikhail Frantsuzov: 'I Always Wanted to Escape Literalness'", Korydor, 2018 (Галина Глеба, "Михаил Французов: 'От буквальности мне всегда хотелось уйти'", Korydor, 2018) [accessed 13.11.2020]
4. Alisa Lozhkina, "100 Years of Ukrainian Art in 100 Minutes. Part 9: Years 1980-1990", WiseCow Youtube Channel, 2017 (Аліса Ложкіна, "100 років українського мистецтва за 100 хвилин. Частина 9: 1980-1990 роки", Youtube, канал WiseCow, 2017) [accessed 13.11.2020]
5. Halyna Khorunzha, "On Mikhail Frantsuzov's Photographs", МІТЄЦ, 2017 (Галина Хорунжа, "О фотографиях Михаила Французова", МІТЄЦ, 2017) [accessed 13.11.2020]
6. Mykhailo Frantsuzov in the section devoted to Oleksandr Aksinin's circle [accessed 13.11.2020]
7. Mykhailo Frantsuzov's Profile on МІТЄЦ [accessed 13.11.2020]
8. Mykhailo Frantsuzov's Profile on Grynyov Art Foundation Web-Site [accessed 13.11.2020]
By Anastasiia Marusiy
Edited by Bohdan Shumylovych and Olha Zarechnyuk
Created with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation