One of our newest artists-in-residence, Anastasia Kuba is fascinated by the inner life of Russian trains. Motivated in part by the forbidden nature of photographing on the trains, Anastasia familiarizes herself with the workers around her, angling for portraits of her subjects in context.
Kim Sikora: Can you talk a little bit about your series “People of the Road”?
Anastasia Kuba: At the moment rail road is still the most popular way to travel from the city to a city. (The) rail Road is like circulatory system of gigantic country.
I will be travelling through Russia by train from West to East making multiple stops in different cities. My main focus will be train attendants. Russian train attendants are known to have a very tough exterior, but at the same time to be very soulful. I am interested in learning what is behind that mask of an inapproachable person. I want to know what their life is like, who they are, what their day consists of, what do they see outside of the train window.
I was looking through different forums to find how international travelers see Russian train attendants. This was my favorite:
“Everyone who’s been doing a trip by train while in Russia knows what I’m talking about. These almost mythical stern people treating their cars like their own children, vacuum cleaning it at least twice a day, keeping their passengers in check … And lest you open the window….”
KS: When you are shooting in the trains, are you seeking out specific subjects or details to include?
AK: I am photographing everything/everyone that catches my eye. I think about what to include/ what to not include later when editing.
KS: How does this series relate to your past work?
AK: Vulnerability and strength has been the main focus of my work and it is a main theme of this project.
KS: How did you create the concept for this series?
AK: One of the times I went back to Russia to visit my family and took a train from Moscow to Voronezh I met a train attendant who captivated me with her personality. I remember a moment when an impatient child asked her when is train going to stop. She answered him nicely and then spoke to herself while looking at the window: “When is the train is going to stop… all my life I am asking myself this question”. I just couldn’t forget her. She was so soulful, authentic…
KS: Given the obstacles that most of us face as artists, it can be a struggle to make the time and space to create new work. How do you balance your personal and professional time?
AK: I think I am extremely lucky. I am professional photographer/ artist. Photography is my work, hobby, passion and lifestyle.
KS: Each of your subjects looks they hold a number of stories within them. Are there any stories from your experience with them you’d like to share?
AK: The lady on the very first photograph shared a car with me on the train from Moscow to Voronezh. Her name is Nusha. She was the first person I photographed for that project. Nusha was on her way home from visiting her son who just had a new born grandchild. She has 7 children. When she was 32 and her youngest child was 3 month old her husband passed away…
KS: You are beginning to plan your continuation of this project in Russia. Can you tell us more about your timeframe for your trip? How do you plan to fund it?
AK: I am planning on going in August and travelling till mid December, because am interested in showing the rail road life through a change of seasons. Everyone who took a train in Russia once was very excited tohearr about this project. I am launching my kickstarter compain June 1st and I hope that people support me iin my wish to learn and to tell stories of Russian train attendants and all people who’s life is tied o Russian Rail Road.
Stay tuned for the inclusion of Anastasia’s work in the next residency show.