Americans weren’t the only ones with dreams of going to the moon. In 1970, two years after NASA achieved that goal (no, I don’t think Stanley Kubrick directed it all from a film set), a book was published in the Soviet Union showing cosmonauts on a trip that was never to be realised.
This is started as a great idea for a photography project, and is now a Kickstarter backed book, Soviet Bus Stops:
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. 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, traveling 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.
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 photobooks of 2014 by Martin Parr, is now available in this highly anticipated, expanded smaller-format trade edition.
This is great. From Wired:
Walking around cities like Prague and Krakow in the late 1980s, American David Hlynsky was struck by the lack of advertising on the streets. Instead of Pepsi and the Marlboro man, shop windows displayed scant offerings of everyday items like bread or plumbing supplies. The lack of frivolity fascinated him.
“In the dying days of the Cold War, I saw these windows as a vast ad hoc museum of a great failing utopia,” Hlynsky writes.
He documented the crumbling aesthetic in 450 windows across the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. A portion of his work recently was published in Window-Shopping Through the Iron Curtain. His photos capture a world on the brink of collapse, one in which a strange blend of Communism and consumerism converge.
Dreams of Space is an excellent blog that focuses on a single subject: nonfiction kids books about space flight between the years 1945 and 1975. The publisher, John Sisson, recently posted scans from a 1961 Russian children’s book called As We Were Flying on a Rocket. The photos are wonderful.
But having been around enough older socialists and communists, I do know that the USSR was actually a hot destination for a while, especially for leftists. I even know a couple people whose parents took their honeymoon there! And this was certainly encouraged by Stalin, himself, who established the government-run tourism board with the express purpose of raising the profile of the USSR.
Below, you see Soviet travel brochures from the 1930s. They advertise advanced industrial development, a commitment to the arts, gorgeous cities, and a diverse array of natural beauty. Some of them touch on Socialist Realism, but what strikes me is the diversity of the art, and the visibly ambitious optimism therein.
Get your geek on with this, a Soviet particle accelerator control panel from 1968.
I love stuff like this. Maybe it’s a northern thing. From The Calvert Journal:
With more and more cinemas in Russia losing out to multiplexes, photographer Sergey Novikov sought to capture the old buildings in their new incarnations — sometimes abandoned, sometimes used for discos and fairs or taken over by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Breathless was shot in Moscow and St Petersburg between 2010 and 2011 by Novikov, a graduate of the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia. “I prefer an engrossing film to disgusting popcorn,” he says. “I don’t mind shifting about in a squeaky chair, soaking in the atmosphere of an old cinema. Unfortunately, the films have already left them.” Novikov’s work, which has been published in magazines such as Russian Esquire and Italian Rolling Stone, covers a wide range of subjects from Belgian beer to Icelandic landscapes. In 2011, he self-published FC Volga United, a book of photos about football fans who live along the Volga, Europe’s longest river.