with Soviet Union
After traveling to 15 cities in 7 countries and taking over 15,000 photographs, Christopher Herwig (previously) has compiled a new book that showcases the diverse architecture of every underground metro station in the former U.S.S.R. Soviet Metro Stations provides rare look at mansion-quality chandeliers, ornate columns, and patterned ceilings that surround millions of commuters every day.
With a background in travel photography and documentary work for UNICEF and other United Nations agencies, Herwig was first introduced to the region while traveling through Russia via train. He later lived in Kazakhstan and most recently Jordan, where he continued to work professionally as a photographer.
Herwig explains that he became interested in the underground architecture of the stations while visiting Moscow and Tashkent. Because many of the metro stations were used as nuclear bomb shelters, they were considered military sites and photographing them was prohibited. “Although I likely could have gotten away with a few images I really wanted to do the series properly and cover all the cities in the former USSR with metro lines not just a few flashy ones in Moscow,” he told Colossal. “With restriction being lifted in many of the cities it meant I could have a go at it.”
Herwig’s images take viewers on a journey through the architectural and political influences of decades pasts. Soviet-era symbols, relief sculptures of significant events and figures, and displays of opulence cover every square meter of the well-maintained subterranean spaces. Often making early morning and late night trips into the stations, Herwig says that many of the otherwise busy hubs appear to be abandoned because of his goal to “use people with purpose and not to distract from the space and design of the stations.”
Soviet Metro Stations, published by FUEL, lands on September 24 and is available for pre-order today via Amazon. To see more of Christopher Herwig’s photography, follow along with his travels on Instagram.
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This Giant Abandoned Soviet Spaceship Made of Wood Looks Like the Ultimate Children’s Playground Feature
While exploring an abandoned corner of the Zhukovsky airfield (Ramenskoye Airport) in Moscow two years ago, aviation photographer Aleksander Markin stumbled onto a forgotten relic of Russia’s Buran Space Program. This decaying wooden spacecraft was used as a wind tunnel model in the 1980s for the VKK Space Orbiter, the largest and most expensive Soviet space exploration program conceived as a response to the United States’ Space Shuttle. Despite its scientific purposes the wooden ship has the appearance of a fantastic children’s playground feature.
According to Urban Ghosts, this 1:3 scale replica was just one of 85 wind tunnel models used to test various aerodynamic properties of the orbiter. The testing would eventually reveal that NASA’s prototype for the Enterprise was ideal for spaceflight and the VKK Space Orbiter would take a similar design as a result.
Despite the ambitious size and scale of the Buran Space Program, the final craft would fly only a single unmanned mission in 1988 before being scrapped completely in 1993 due to lack of funding and political instability (and yet only modern Russia retains the ability to send people to the ISS today). Markin mentions in comments along with his photographs that this particular wind tunnel model has since been destroyed and no longer exists. (via Urban Ghosts)
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If you asked me when the history of bootleg music began, I would have assumed it arrived with the invention of the cassette tape, something small, inexpensive and portable that was easily duplicated in any garage from deck A to deck B. In reality, widespread bootlegging dates back even further, to the 1950s in the Soviet Union where music lovers, desperate for banned Western tunes, devised an ingenious way to print their own records. The only problem was the scarcity of vinyl.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. With the aid of a special device, people started pressing banned jazz and rock n’ roll music on thick radiographs scavenged from the dumpsters of hospitals. X-rays were plentiful (not to mention cheap), and while the records could only be pressed on a single side, the music they produced using a standard turntable was passable. The recordings even had a catchy name: bone music. From an interview with author Anya von Bremzen via NPR:
“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole. You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan—forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”
By 1958 the authorities caught on and the act of making x-ray records was made illegal. It wasn’t long before the largest distribution networks of illicit bone music were discovered and shut down. You can see more scans of bone music over on this page created by Jozsef Hajdu, and FastCo has a great article about the entire phenomenon. (via Junk Culture, NPR, FastCo)
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