UPDATE:

September 2014

Good news for those who missed out on the limited edition Soviet Bus Stop book which sold out in 2 weeks. FUEL publishers are working on designing the next edition with hopes to have it in shops and available online by the fall of next year. Follow us on facebook for more updates to come or email me at info@herwigphoto.com to get on the mailing list for updates.

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Limited edition photo book sold out on Kickstarter.

link to Soviet Bus Stops book

 

 

“Herwig struck gold” – itsnicethat.com

Photographer Christopher Herwig has covered more than 30,000 km by car, bike, bus and taxi in 13 countries discovering and documenting these unexpected treasures of modern art. From the shores of the Black Sea to the endless Kazakh steppe, the bus stops show the range of public art from the Soviet era and give a rare glimpse into the creative minds of the time. Herwig’s series attracted considerable media interest around the world, and now with the 12 year project complete, the full collection will be presented in Soviet Bus Stops as a deluxe, limited edition, hard cover photo book. The book represents the most comprehensive and diverse collection of Soviet bus stop design ever assembled.

THE BUS STOPS

delicate balance between modern art and clinical insanity” – bearsandvodka.com

“fascinating” – Huffington Post 

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the word for bus (Aвтобус) shares the symbol for anarchy; in many regions of the former Soviet Union the local bus shelter was built seemingly without design restrictions, or even budget limit. These projects became a precious opportunity for local artists and architects to express themselves. Instead of one standardized design we find 1000’s of unique and sometimes whimsical creations. They represent a mix of styles, shapes and sizes, from swirling tile mosaic pieces, to elegant geometric forms, to miniature temples of symbolist expression.

THE BOOK – hardcover, landscape 28.5 cm w x 21.5 cm h – 128 pages

“A book of Soviet bus stops? It’s just what I’ve always wanted.” – The Guardian 

Herwig’s series has proven very popular and appeals to wide range of interests. Now with the travels complete, this book will mark the first time all of these photographs are released.  Pre-order your copy of this limited edition book now and make this project a reality.

THE JOURNEY AND THE OBSESSION

By chance I discovered a phenomenon that set in motion a photographic journey that would span 12 years and 13 countries. Hunting for the most amazing road side bus shelters in the former Soviet Union would become my muse and my reason to travel.

During a cycling trip from London to St. Petersburg in the autumn of 2002 I set myself a photographic challenge to take one good photo every hour. It was on this trip that I first paid attention to the bus stops. The long hours in the saddle and slowly changing landscape along country roads in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia provided the setting for my discovery and the birth of my obsession. Here the designs mainly played with purely graphic shapes, each different stretch of road revealing a new set of creations to break up an otherwise bleak landscape.

Between 2003 and 2006 I lived in Kazakhstan, and I explored the five ‘Stan’ countries and former Soviet states of Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Along these silk routes I found more fascinating bus stops, often appearing in the middle of the desert, steppe or countryside, with no other sign of human settlement in sight. It was as if the earth was its pedestal and nothing else on the endless horizon could compete with the bold statement it was making.

Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Abkhazia
Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Abkhazia

My obsession grew and saw me hit the road further to visit five more former soviet countries: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Abkhazia, and later to revisit the Baltics, travelling thousands more kilometres by bus, rental car and taxi with the specific task of hunting down the very best bus stops. I was possessed. On a mission. Nothing was going to deter me from my hunt. I searched travellers’ blogs for clues, interrogated bus and taxi drivers and even scanned over the roads on Google Earth to plan what I believed would be most effective routes. I was not disappointed as each new discovery pushed to outshine the previous.

Several of these countries have little freedom of press and expression. Tourists are rare. Visas for photographers were hard to come by. I often had to instead go into the countries on tourist visas. Despite my efforts not to arouse suspicion I was, on several occasions, accused of being a spy and only narrowly avoided getting caught up in something rather awkward. With reluctance this added to the adventure and made each new discovery even more precious. In Abkhazia my driver accused me of being a Georgian agent and photographing sensitive material. He demanded a bribe, otherwise, it would be “straight to the militizia and a firing squad”. Needless to say, he was not convinced by my story that “I have only come to your country to see your pretty bus stops”. I was happy to escape from the journey with relatively little drama, and even happier to have captured some of the most beautifully insane bus stops I had ever encountered, safe on a memory card tucked into my underpants.

This photo series is likely the largest collection of Soviet Bus Stops ever assembled. A tenuous claim to fame, I admit, and a strange obsession to have. But still, it’s one that I am proud of and I hope it will help to preserve this unique and historical art form.

Vera Kavalkova-Halvarsson has joined our team, heading up our research effort and has been busy interviewing some of the fantastic individuals who were behind this unique art form. These insights will be included in the background section of the book, all of which is coming together beautifully and will be off to the printer in the middle of April, 2014.