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.
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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.”