The famous Canadian-born photographer Christopher Herwig has spent fifteen years documenting bus stops in former Soviet countries. These years were full of interesting adventures and, more importantly, the diversity of designs across republics. Whilethe countries borderingWestern Europe are characterized by wood and soft forms, concrete and mosaic bus stops greeted Herwigin the Caucasus. It is noteworthy that most of the stops’designsresemble the letter A(for auto-bus).
Although the installation was ordered by the central government, each republicbuilt its bus stops indifferent ways, according to the vision of local architects and designers.
In this photo projectwe foundthe most exciting bus stops from Abkhazia, a beautiful part of coastal Georgia currently occupied by Russia. They feature colorful mosaics and distinguishing dynamic-wave shapes influenced by the Black Sea. According to our information, architect GogiChakhava and designer NodarMalazonia worked on the majority of them. Christopher sent us the pictures of Abkhazian bus stops and answered a few questions.
– How would you describe your “Soviet Bus Hunt” in Abkhazia and experience?
– I was quite nervous about the visit to Abkhazia. I had seen some pictures online of a couple of the bus stops and they seemed truly unique to anything I had seen, and as a result I figured I had to try and get in and photograph them. I sent an email to the local officials in charge of obtaining permission and after a week I got a letter back that I could present at the checkpoint near Zugdidi to enter. I then travelled by bus all the way up to Sokhumi where I had to pay for and register the visit. From there I continued onward to Gagra where I stayed the night and arranged for a taxi the next day to take me around and back to the Zugdidi checkpoint. The morning was packed with interesting bus stops and I had no problems travelling around, until the taxi driver demanded more money and accused me of being a Georgian spy since I was heading back to Zugdidi. He threatened to tell the militia I was photographing sensitive sites all morning and that they would possibly execute me. I knew no one was going to execute me, however the situation was not ideal and I did not know if I could trust the police more than this taxi driver. I did not want any trouble and I paid him the increased fare he asked for, only to have to argue with him for the rest of the way as he continued to want more and more. Sadly he was no longer stopping and I could only look out the window and the passing bus stops and curse. But I also knew I was lucky to get what I did and for me it’s some of the most special bus stops I have seen in the fifteen years of looking for them.
– What’s the difference between Abkhazian and other bus stops?
– The colors, the shapes, the size of them, represented bus stops that were beyond the simple project of a roadside shelter and instead very impressive public art works.
– Are Soviet Bus stops valuable and how should people treat them now?
– I definitely think many of the bus stops need to be preserved. They represent more individual artists and unique creations of the time, and not so much Soviet ideology. They are little treasures and it would not take much too safe a couple dozen of the exceptional one.
It is noteworthy that the second volume, Soviet Bus Stop Part II, comes out in September, when Georgian bus stops have a significant part.Christopher has traveled in Georgiain the winter of 2017. The cover of his new book is decorated from the bus stops in Goderdzi Pass in Khulo, mountainous Adjara.
You can pre order the book on Amazon
Soviet Bus Stops in Georgia:
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili
Photo: Christopher Herwig