Julie Poly

3 September 2021
Yuliya Polyashchenko (Julie Poly) is Ukrainian photographer and artist. Her portfolio includes works for Ukrainian and international magazines, such as Vogue, Dazed & Confused and I-D.
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. Today, Julie Poly lives and works in Kyiv.

"Ukrzaliznytsia" is a photo project 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.
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" Train cars look like a primitive iron box, but inside is where all the action happens. Ukrainian trains have an absolutely unique atmosphere. The project depicts certain stereotypes of passengers and my personal experiences. After flipping through the whole book, you'll feel like an insider of the Ukrainian trains ",
— Julie Poly.
Is it possible to shoot a train in the post-Soviet space as a lyrical story?
Julie Paulie did it. She made artistic name by filming youth culture in Ukraine, but she also worked on the railways as a conductor during her student holidays. So she knows the train from the inside. She checked tickets, served tea and handed out sheets.

Julie Poly worked on the Ukrzaliznytsia project for almost two years. 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.

"Some of the heroes of the project are stylized like real characters. This is an imitation of people and familiar situations, but the task was not to show real life. On the contrary, each scene is grotesque,"- says Julie Poly.

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.
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. 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.

Part of Ukrzaliznytsia project was first presented as the exhibition at Ukraine's major Kyiv-Pasazh-yrskyi Railway Station in September 2018. Photographs were displayed as backlit posters in advertising spaces located throughout the station's main passage. This way, the project came back to the area of its genesis and directly interacted with its own protagonists. Now, the full "Ukrzaliznytsia" project is published as a book.
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