With the experience of working as a train conductor, Julie Poly captures the very essence of travelling in Ukrainian trains with her project ‘Ukrzaliznytsia’, which 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” — says Julie Poly.
Julie Poly worked on the Ukrzaliznytsia project for almost two years, shooting both documentary photographs of train decorations and staged photographs of models representing typical passengers of the Ukrainian railway. The author 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 project 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.