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Moscow Metro

The Photographer’s Story

I first visited Moscow in late 2014 and discovered that its metro stations were absolutely remarkable – it then took months to get permission to photograph them. With the help of a Russian producer, I was eventually able to gain access after hours, and was allowed 40 minutes in each, shooting about four per night. The metro was opened in 1935 and was intended to culturally jumpstart Stalin’s new Russia, instilling a sense of pride and putting forward a grand face to the world. The stations were designed by various architects and reflect their different styles, from Art Deco to mock-Italian palazzos – with lots of marble, mosaics, sculptures and chandeliers. They were conceived as ‘palaces for the people’ where workers were given a cultural experience typically reserved for the wealthy; a theme of light symbolises the ‘bright future’ of Communism. Today, Moscow’s metro is one of the busiest in the world, and it was amazing to be in these spaces when they were empty. I had no idea of the sheer scale of some of them; I tried to translate that in my photos, but it’s really something that needs to be experienced first-hand. Though the stations feel old, they’ve been maintained well in their original state – there’s no advertising, and no sense of the 21st century being laid over the top. Entering feels like stepping into a massive antique, or back in time.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - August 2016
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