Julie Poly: Ukrzaliznytsia
PublisherADEF – Ukraine Publishing House
Hardcover, 235 x 308 mm, 224 pages
Yulia Polyashchenko (b.1986, Ukraine) is a Kyiv-based photographer who goes by the artistic name Julie Poly. She is particularly known for her editorials in Ukraine’s Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, among many other fashion magazines. But in her latest monograph ‘Ukrzaliznytsia’ (named after the only railroad transportation enterprise in Ukraine), she reflects on something else: her personal experience of being a train conductor.
When she graduated from a railway university in Kharkiv, Yulia had a chance to spend the whole summer travelling across the country. She specifically took the routes between Kharkiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Truskavets and the area of Kiev. Along the way, she photographically explored the unique characters and stereotypes of Ukrainian passengers that can be found onboard.
Prior to reaching the book, one has to go through a plastic packaging with a logo of the railway company in front and “have a nice trip” printed in multiple languages on the back. The plastic jacket functions as an imitation of bed linen bag of Ukrainian railways, signifying to the reader a beginning of a journey. Each chapter in ‘Ukrzaliznytsia’ is based on a different train journey where images are accompanied by humorous poems that set up the unique atmosphere of the book.
What Poly recalls is the fact that the notions of personal space and privacy barely exist inside the train. Instead, the passengers enjoy comfort even if it means simply to sit in one’s underwear in the cabin. A comfort which is sometimes on the borderline between banality and sensuality. Poly’s photographs are, therefore, on the intersection of fashion, eroticism and Eastern European aesthetics, highlighting the grotesque atmosphere of these train trips.
Bizarre as it may seem, the characters portrayed are based on Poly’s real memories. In the book, she combines purely documentary and heavily styled images together to reflect on her personal experiences from the train journeys. She blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction, making the viewer confused about what is being seen and what is authentic or not.
The publication ends with a 28-page brochure featuring an exhibition of the project integrated into the space of Kyiv’s central railway station. The photographs were placed instead of commercial posters in banners both outside and inside the building, immediately becoming in direct contact with the protagonists of ‘Ukrzaliznytsia’ – the eccentric and diverse Ukrainian passengers. Only thanks to the success of the exhibition, Poly was then able to push the project into a new direction of a book form.
Through Poly’s innovative and playful visual language, we are able to witness Ukrainian one-of-a-kind history and culture. The mockumentary of ‘Ukrzaliznytsia’ allows us for once to also become insiders and experience the Ukrainian travel on our own.
You can purchase your unique copy of ‘Ukrzaliznytsia’ here.