Soviet Bus Stops

Photographer Christopher Herwig recounts the epic Central Asian road trips he took over 12 years, covering 30,000km, to document the unique and architecturally experimental Soviet bus stops.

  • Words + Photography: Christopher Herwig

In 2002 I decided to ride my bike from London to Saint Petersburg, with the challenge of taking one good photo every hour. The subject didn’t matter as long as it was interesting. Those 3,000 kilometres across Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia forced me to notice details: graffiti, smokestacks, gardens, clothes on clothes lines, people waiting for the local bus. Those long roads were the start of my obsession.

In 2003 I moved to Almaty, Kazakhstan, and for three years I explored the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The stereotypes were all there: concrete apartment blocks, generous vodka shots, towering statues of Lenin. But so were the eccentricities that defied the Soviet conventions.

In Canada, where I come from, bus stops are all the same. But in the former Soviet republics, many were unique, imaginative, and sometimes a bit mad. Each new bus stop I encountered came with its own personality. They made me realise that the Soviet Union can be remembered for more than the clichés we grew up with in the West. Behind the Iron Curtain were millions of individuals who liked to daydream, wanted to push the limits of creativity and needed a way to share it. My curiosity grew, and over the years I’ve hit the road again and again, travelling thousands of kilometres across Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, hunting down the very best bus stops.

It was surprisingly impractical to hunt bus stops by bus, so I used rental cars and taxis. Most taxi drivers were confused as to why I was interested in the old bus stops and would speed past them as if they were invisible; they were bemused as I leapt from the car to photograph something that, to them, was just a totally normal part of their landscape.

Article taken from
Articles

Further Reading

Tashkent Metro Stations

Stately pleasure domes: the palatial architecture of the underground stations of Tashkent are inspired by everything from Central Asian Emperor Tamburlaine the Great to the Soviet cosmonauts.

Up Close: Caliphate of Ashes

In March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS and tried to establish a Caliphate. Photojournalist Benedicte Kurzen describes travelling with the Nigerian army as they retook the land held by insurgents.

Peak Performance

Playwright David Greig describes how he grappled with turning one of the most famous survival stories of all time into a gripping psychological drama.

Living Root Bridges

These stunning feats of ‘living engineering’ predate literacy in this remote corner of Northeast India.

Life. Limitless.

Taking its cue from T.S. Eliot’s quote “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”, Life. Limitless. is a collaboration between Clarks and Land Rover.

The Man Who Talks to Sperm Whales

James Nestor reports on the astounding qualities of the sperm whale. Working with a highly qualified free diving crew he discovers how we are getting ever closer to communicating with the world's largest predator.
Browse by Category