When asked about his inspiration for “Ukrainian Railroad Ladies,” a series of portraits of women who work as traffic controllers and safety officers, photographer Sasha Maslov said, “As a photographer I was drawn to the architecture and interiors of these buildings. As a storyteller I was attracted by the anthropological and social roles played by the crossings and the workers.” Maslov’s project isn’t merely a series of portraits though, it is also a reflection of the landscape along the Ukrainian railway system, where the landscape is dotted with the charming exteriors, painted in pastels, of the homes where these women live.
Maslov’s work revolves primarily around portraiture focused on specific themes. And this project is no different. He told In Sight a little more about it, saying, “During the course of this project it occurred to me that the crossings are reassuringly permanent — they stand firm in the face of constant change. Unfazed by the passing of trains and time, they are here to stay."
Ukraine’s first railroad line, built in 1861, connected Lviv, Cracow, and Vienna. The country’s railway system has a total working mileage of over 22,000 kilometers (13,670 miles), making it the 13th-largest network in the world. Railroad transport is the most prominent division method of shipping goods throughout the country. This is why there are still railroad traffic controllers in Ukraine. And as Maslov’s project reveals, many of these traffic controllers are women who work lengthy shifts, living in the little houses nestled by the railroad tracks.
“In a country that has been torn apart by political turmoil, war and loss of territory — not to mention corruption and a permanently troubled economy — few people pay attention to the women they see from a passing train, standing still with a folded yellow flag. In this series, I explore my childhood fascination with railroads and the fairy tale houses that stand beside the tracks,” Maslov said. "This project is also an exploration of why this profession still exists in the 21st century, given the almost full automatization of railroad crossings in Ukraine and around the world.”
Maslov’s book for this project is scheduled for release in July. You can preorder here.
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
More on In Sight: