In the summer of 2006 I traveled by train from Moscow to Beijing. As mile after mile passed, I thought about how difficult it is to get behind the fleeting glimpses of landscapes and people. We can stop our journey, to explore and even live somewhere in order to get to know it better. But in the final analysis, all our experiences and encounters are transformed into memories of the places and people we have passed. Our imagination fills in the gaps and gives our memories life. These memories — assisted by our imagination — are what we understand as our knowledge of a place or person.

The project that I developed for this journey was aimed at trying to take some control over the ephemeral nature of travel, and specifically movement over far distances. To accomplish this I consistently photographed the landscapes and scenes that passed by during the entire train journey from Moscow to Bejing, a series which resulted in thousands of photographs of places that I could only observe in moments when on the train. Imagination then became the key with which to unlock each captured moment, enabling the observation of that place or of those people fixed in time in that corner of the world.

The images were edited down to create a series called the Trans Siberian Flipbook, which consists of a long, running series of images covering the distance from the beginning to the end of the journey. Most images in the series convey the sense that the viewer is standing in a single spot, observing. However, occasional glimpses of a reflection or a blurred image remind the viewer that the scenes are in fact being seen from a moving position.

Thus, the series exists both as a whole — an entire journey — and as individual parts, in that every single image creates a unique observation point, a unique experience, within an ever-changing landscape. The entire series thus allows the viewer to observe the journey at his or her own pace or even to stop and observe landscapes that had been but a fleeting moment during the original journey.

— Jeff Vanderpool