Sasha Maslov’s new book Veterans: Faces of World War II, published recently by Princeton Architectural Press, presents portraits and interview with veterans of World War II from all sides of the conflict. For the project, Maslov photographed men and a handful of women at home, sitting on beds or at kitchen tables, and recorded their stories about how they joined war, how they survived it and the shape their lives took afterwards. Rather than focusing only on Allies or on veterans from a single country or battle, the book presents a surprisingly diverse group. Maslov’s subjects are American, Russian, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Greek, German, French, Finnish, Slovenian, Italian, Austrian and Canadian, among other nationalities, and their experiences of the war vary greatly. Some joined as excited volunteers, others were conscripted, one left the Lodz ghetto for Auschwitz-Birkenau, another trained to be a kamikaze.
Maslov says he originally planned to focus on just a few major countries, but “I slowly began to realize that I needed to seek out more and more voices in more and more locations to begin to do justice to the diversity of experiences of this generation,” he writes in the book. Working with veterans’ associations and using social media, Maslov photographed more than 50 veterans, “a wide range of personalities and narratives,” and found that “especially in smaller countries, the veterans were immensely proud of the role they had played in the war and maintained strong, supportive communities.”
Maslov says he was interested in showing the way that war aligns lives, bringing people together in a common cause (for better or worse), before their lives follow divergent paths. His subjects are “a mosaic of people who were all engaged in this incredible tragedy at one moment and in the next were living their separate lives in different corners of the planet. The way that the world came together and then stretched out again, permanently changed, has always been a source of wonder and inspiration for me. Every individual and every country remembers the war differently. It is this diversity of experience that I hope to have captured so that these stories remain and these lives are remembered.”