Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig captured images of the elaborate metro network of the former USSR.
He traveled across 15 cities and six countries in order to photograph each metro station.
“I visited all 15 cities with metros designed, and for the most part built, during the Soviet Union,” Herwig said of his photo series.
“I rode a lot of trains and spent months underground,” Herwig added.
Herwig’s images, which capture the extraordinary detail of the underground architecture, are featured in his new book, “Soviet Metro Stations.”
Before he was photographing metro stations, Herwig was exploring bus stops in remote places across central Asia.
“I stumbled across Soviet bus stops while biking from London to St. Petersburg in 2002, and spent years documenting them,” Herwig told Insider.
Herwig went on to release two books, “Soviet Bus Stops” and “Soviet Bus Stops Volume II,” which are filled with his images.
Herwig told Insider that he was “first blown away by the metro stations during earlier trips to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Tashkent in the late ’90s.”
But at the time, many of the Soviet-era metro systems had restrictions on photography, as they were considered military sites because they would serve as bomb shelters in case of a nuclear attack.
“Although I likely could have gotten away with a few images, I really wanted to do the series properly and cover all 15 cities in the former USSR with metro lines, not just a few flashy ones in Moscow,” Herwig said of his decision to photograph bus stops first.
“Just recently, a lot of the restrictions that prohibited photography in the metro got lifted, which allowed me to really dive into this project,” Herwig added.
Herwig’s main goal for his photo series was to “create the most complete book of Soviet metro stations ever assembled,” and the photographer told Insider that he’s happy to say he achieved this.
Herwig’s work showcases the elaborate underground artwork, which was designed to promote a bright future for the country.
The first metro line opened in Moscow in 1935 as a form of Communist propaganda under the rule of Joseph Stalin.
Many of the stations feature large marble pillars, grand chandeliers, and ornate wall designs.
Statues are also commonly seen throughout the stations and are representative of Soviet-style socialist realism.
“I wanted to showcase the variety found throughout all of the stations, as well as capture the different time periods and styles,” Herwig told Insider of capturing the different subways.
Many of the stations include long walkways and high ceilings.
“Each one was unique, not only in its overall appearance but also in the type of signs and lights on the ceiling, and the tiles on the walls,” said Herwig.
While Herwig was impressed by the over-the-top features, he says his appreciation now lies more in the “modernist style of metros that were created in the years after Stalin.”
Including the stations “with much humbler budgets, less marble, and more concrete.”
“While the classical stations seemed to copy the look of the imperial past, their counterparts, to me, seem to conjure up more of a hopeful future,” says Herwig.
Today, the Moscow metro system is the fifth-longest in the world and is only expected to grow in the coming years.
A complete look at how ornate the subway system of the former USSR really is can be found in Herwig’s book, “Soviet Metro Stations.”
You can view the entire collection and read more about each
station in Herwig’s book.
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