Ira Lupu


“Model at Home” (2016-ongoing) is a long-term photo project on professional Ukrainian model Yulia Polieva and her struggle to accept herself in the profession she never really wanted to do. The project was shot mostly in between Yulia’s long international travels, in her bittersweet transition spot of the home town of Mykolayiv. Nicknamed “the capital of brides”, this Southern Ukrainian shipbuilding city is famous for its overwhelmingly beautiful women — and high crime rates. The latest part of the project was executed during Yulia’s prolonged stay in the city during the coronavirus pandemic.



“While being on the lockdown in Mykolayiv, I was finally able to look back at my life and work and see things clearly. The industry still has unhealthy body standards. And when most jobs correlate with everyday life, fashion is a crazy world on its own. On the other hand, I realized how cool it was to be able to travel all around the world.” 


“The situation of a fashion shooting is beyond normalcy. In real life, you would never bend like this, look fiercely like that. But this allows you to open up some new sides of yourself. It’s all just a mask, but it’s your mask.”


“Quarantine achievement unlocked: I baked and ate two cakes in one day. Consequences? Zero. My organism is ridiculous. Before modeling, I always wanted to put on weight, but I wasn’t able to. When I became a model, they told me I have to lose weight. I tried, but I wasn’t able to.”


“Pandemics, tornados, volcano eruptions… Agents don’t care about your life and health. This winter, I was to go to work in China. I got my visa, and the agent bought me $1500 return tickets. Because of the virus in China, we had to move my flight a few times, and when things got better there, Ukraine closed the borders. Now my agent forces me to find ways to get there again — despite the country being “locked” at the point. If I won’t go, she wants me to bring her back the whole amount, even though according to the contract, the whole story is not my responsibility.” 


“It has never been easy for me to digest all these fashion images of myself. But having your pictures taken becomes OK — in about 4 years after you started doing it. From time to time, you can even enjoy it.”