Ukrzaliznytsia is a photo project by Ukrainian author Julie Poly (real name - Yuliya Polyashchenko) that she filmed during 2017–2019. Having experience of working as a train conductor, Julie captures the very essence of travelling in Ukrainian trains. ‘Ukrzaliznytsia’ is also the name of the Ukrainian state railway company.
“Train cars look like a primitive iron box, but inside is where all the action happens. Ukrainian trains have an absolutely unique atmosphere. It only seems that they are just means of transportation. But really the Ukrainian railway is a different world and everyone who gets on board knows its rules. The project depicts certain stereotypes of passengers and my personal experiences. After flipping through the whole book from cover to cover, you’ll feel like an insider of the Ukrainian trains”, — says Julie Poly.
Julie Poly was born in the city of Stakhanov, Luhansk region. She has graduated from the Ukrainian State Academy of Railway Transport in Kharkiv. Having completed her first year of studies at the Academy, she had her internship as a train conductor. Julie Poly has studied photography in Stakhanov, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Milan. Her portfolio includes works for Ukrainian and international magazines, such as Vogue, Dazed & Confused, I-D. Today, Julie Poly lives and works in Kyiv.
Julie Poly worked on the Ukrzaliznytsia project for almost two years. Now, the book includes both: documentary photographs of train decorations and staged photographs of models representing typical passengers of the Ukrainian railway. Julie Poly calls this approach ‘pseudo-documentary’ because the inspiration for the staged photographs has come from real people and situations. The ‘passengers’ include: soldiers, business women, gigolo, and sport athletes, mostly girls, on their way to sport competition.
Most of the photographs in the book can be described as erotic. This comes from the specific atmosphere in the Ukrainian trains and its perception by the artist. “I believe that travelling by train in Ukraine is a rather erotic experience. Nowhere in the world you will find trains where half-naked people travel together side by side”, says Julie Poly. In the Ukrainian trains, there is a tradition for passengers to dress in more comfortable clothes once they get in, change their shoes to slippers or lie barefoot, have dinner and a drink — all that in tight compartments. The notions of privacy and personal boundaries are dim in the train light, and that’s exactly what the author is focusing on in this project.
Before the release of the Ukrzaliznytsia book, there was an exhibition of the photo-series at the railway station in Kyiv in September 2018. The photos were exhibited on the city-lights at the Kyiv Central Railway Station. The exhibition consisted of 22 photos and received good reviews from the art community and workers of the station.
The Ukrzaliznytsia book consists of 13 stories. Each story is about a journey to a certain place. The stories have their own characters. The style of the characters was created by Julie Poly together with Ukrainian leading stylists — Venya Brykalin, Nastya Gutnik, Alyona Ivanova, Stas Soulkeeper and Olena Polyvyan. Some looks were created together with stylists from local salons from the cities where the story was shot.
Each story is accompanied by an artistic, often poetic, text. Texts were written by Lizaveta Gottfrick and Olga Balenciaga based on the stories of Julie Poly. That way the visual stories become more clear to people from other countries, besides Ukraine.
Julie Poly has involved an international team of art talents to make the book. Its art director is a British publisher Ben Ditto while its designer is Marcus Watkinson. The book’s editor is a Ukrainian artist Misha Buksha.
224 pgs, 30 × 23.5 cm, Hardcover, 2020, 978-617-7736-46-1