Photographer spends 12 years snapping Soviet Bus Stops and is accused of spying

Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig first discovered the unusual architecture of Soviet-era bus stops during a 2002 long-distance bike ride from London to St. Petersburg.

Via Creative Boom submission. All images courtesy of the artist

Via Creative Boom submission. All images courtesy of the artist

Challenging himself to take one good photograph every hour, Herwig began to notice surprisingly designed bus stops on otherwise deserted stretches of road. Twelve years later, Herwig had covered more than 18,000 miles in 14 countries of the former Soviet Union, travelling by car, bike, bus and taxi to hunt down and document these bus stops.

The local bus stop proved to be fertile ground for local artistic experimentation in the Soviet period and was built seemingly without design restrictions or budgetary concerns. The result is an astonishing variety of styles and types across the region, from the strictest Brutalism to exuberant whimsy.

But his documentation didn't run as smoothly as he'd hoped: “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. 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 militia and a firing squad.'"

Soviet Bus Stops is the most comprehensive and diverse collection of Soviet bus stop design ever assembled, including examples from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, the disputed region of Abkhazia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Estonia.

Originally published in a quickly sold-out limited edition, Soviet Bus Stops, named one of the best photo books of 2014 by Martin Parr, is now available in a highly anticipated, expanded smaller-format trade edition. Available on Amazon.


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