“Every year, fewer and fewer veterans of the War remain on this earth, and often take their stories with them,” you hear on the video. “Time is of the essence. World War II veterans are in their twilight years. Some of the people I’ve photographed have already passed away.”
The voice belongs to Sasha Maslov, a 29-year-old Ukrainian-born photographer now living in Brooklyn. The video was part of a multimedia appeal to potential backers on the crowd-funding web site Kickstarter, where Maslov hoped to raise enough funds to complete the last leg of his portrait series of World War II veterans. Through Kickstarter, Maslov was able to raise more than $5,000 to help offset travel and living expenses as he visited cities in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Austria, Japan, Italy and other countries to document some of the last remaining veterans by taking portraits of them in their homes.
In his artist statement, Maslov says that World War II was “the one event in human history that could not — and still cannot — be compared with any other event on the scale of catastrophe, human tragedy, and the degree of impact on the future of our civilization. Every single person who took part in the war, whether they were a soldier or a general, prisoner or a guard, medical worker or an engineer, took part in shaping the image of the world as it is seen and perceived today.” His goal, he writes, was to “assemble a mosaic of people who at one moment were all engaged in this incredible tragedy, and in another were living their separate lives in different corners of our planet.”
While many people publically honor veterans during holidays like Russia’s Victory Day – a holiday which also marked the opening of Maslov’s exhibition in St. Petersburg – there is less opportunity to see living veterans in their own homes and dressed in their own clothes. By photographing veterans inside their homes, dressed mostly in their everyday clothes, the veterans exist in a context outside of once-a-year parades and public spectacles. Maslov says he felt it was important to photograph his subjects like this, as the surrounding belongings and living conditions can reveal a lot about the subject being photographed. “I feel that the walls of homes sometimes can tell a lot about their lives,” he says. Therefore, he photographs his subjects as they are – in flannel T-shirts, silk blouses, with their pet parrots or with the television on in the background. In his portraits, emotions in faces occupy a distinct range, suggesting pride, sorrow, pain, and even contentedness. One veteran from Italy is even photographed toasting Maslov.
Maslov has a budding career in editorial journalism, having shot for The New York Times, Billboard, Russian Esquire, Forbes Ukraine, and many more international publications. While his glossy images have had wealthy businessmen, top chefs, and celebrity musicians as their subject, “Veterans” isn’t the only project of Maslov’s with social commentary about everyday people. A graduate of Kharkiv Institute of Art and Industrial Design in his native Ukraine, he is also behind the 2005 project “Prison Theater,” documenting a group of Ukrainian prisoners who formed a theatrical group and staged a play for guards and fellow inmates. In this project, like with “Veterans,” Maslov’s subjects are transformed and seen in a different light.
“It was extremely moving to observe the inmates mastering acting, transitioning from prison slang to calling one another sir and lord, from wearing drab uniforms to donning wigs and bright costumes,” Maslov says.
You can view more of Maslov’s work by visiting his web site by clicking here.
The Veterans Project is open now through July 3 at Loft Project Etagi.
“The Veterans Project”
Sasha Maslov photography exhibition
Loft Project Etagi, Ligovsky Prospekt 74
Open now through July 3, 2013