Watching dawn aboard the train. The doors are typically left open during transit, especially in non-air-conditioned coaches. ( Jean Yves Chainon)

A woman sleeps on a berth as the train crosses the fields of Odisha near Puri, one of the country’s sacred places of pilgrimage. ( Jean Yves Chainon)

For his series, Life in the Sleeper Trains of India, photographer Jean Yves Chainon spent two months traveling across India by train, taking more than 22 long-distance train rides, about half of which were all-night trains, lasting upward of 200 hours. One of the goals was to give a glimpse of daily life on India’s trains, as well as of the country’s cultural diversity.

From Bangladesh, Chainon crossed into the Indian state of Meghalaya and rode up to Guwahati, in Assam, in the northeast of the country. From there he traveled to Darjeeling and followed a clockwise itinerary around India, which ended in Varanasi, one of India’s holiest cities.

“In these photos I try to convey the emotions of ordinary moments,” Chainon said of his series. “Hopefully the effect is to offer a less dramatic but also more intimate and accurate depiction of daily life aboard India’s trains, which have traditionally been the country’s most popular form of transportation for both short and long journeys.”


Bangalore. (Jean Yves Chainon)

Passengers wait to board a train in Tirupati. (Jean Yves Chainon)

A mother and daughter in the train from Guwahati as it crosses the state of Assam. (Jean Yves Chainon)

Pernem train station in Goa. (Jean Yves Chainon)

A man takes a nap on board a sleeper train while another engages in conversation, Assam. (Jean Yves Chainon)

A beggar carries a pet monkey. (Jean Yves Chainon)

Sleeper cars often reflect a cross section of individuals traveling within the country. Here a nun is photographed during a moment of rest. (Jean Yves Chainon)

A woman looks up from the lower berth in an overcrowded train from New Delhi to the holy city of Varanasi, one of the country’s most traveled train routes. (Jean Yves Chainon)

Families resting on the ground as they wait for their train, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. (Jean Yves Chainon)

A father and daughter pass the time by playing a game on board a sleeper train. (Jean Yves Chainon)