I’ve always had a fascination with mass transit, especially subways throughout the world. I love the motion of the trains and people, all working together in concert. I wanted to focus on one subway system, picking from a list of the ten most beautiful systems in the world. This was a difficult decision, but would finally be the subway system in Moscow, Russia.
One of the big influencers in my decision to travel to Moscow was the photograph taken by Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer in 1989, of an escalator in a Moscow subway. It seemed that Moscow was meeting all of my criteria. That was it, I’ll pack my cameras and head to Moscow, this is the subway system I’ll photograph. This will combine my love of subway systems, people and allow me to concentrate on one system. I thought it might be interesting to photograph the system during one season, to have a consistent theme throughout the project’s images.
After making the decision about the subway system and obtaining a three year Russian visa, I planned to to visit Russia during the Winter season. During two consecutive winters, I plunged down into one of the world’s largest subway systems. The Moscow system, best known as the ‘Metro’, is more than 80 years old. The length of the Metro’s tracks, are 397.3 km or 246.9 miles, making it the fifth longest subway system in the world.
The Metro’s beginning dates back to the Russian Empire. Planning the subway system was postponed when WWI began, and delayed again during the Russian Revolution. The Soviet government approved construction in 1931. For almost three decades, major construction occurred until completion of the subway system in the late 1950’s. Work on the subway still continues to this day, but the heaviest influence was during the early part of the “Cold War” (1945-1989).
Once down inside the subway stations, I was struck by the beauty of my surroundings. The architecture had so much detail, but maintained its functionality as a subway station. No one station looks the same, each one has its own theme. One station is devoted to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and has 76 bronze statues displaying the main participants: soldiers, peasants, sailors, workers, engineers and students. With the limited space, all the statues are either sitting, kneeling or crouched. As people walk by, the statues are touched for different superstitions. Riders pass by the statue with a soldier and dog, touching the dogs nose for good luck.
Another favorite station of mine is the Komsomolskaya station on the Circle Line, its like a cathedral. It represents the high point of the Stalinist Empire style, with elegant bronze chandeliers, marble arcades and monumental mosaics made from smalt. Each one of these stations are stunning in their own way and some have tails.
When I was navigating the Metro by using a paper map, I noticed the one subway line was a perfect circle around Moscow. The line was depicted with the color brown and asked why the perfect circle around Moscow? The story of this line is Stalin was in a meeting with the subway designers and he placed his coffee cup on the map. The cup of coffee left a brown stain on the map, the designers thought Stalin wanted to have a subway line circling Moscow. Who knows, but it make for an interesting story.
I couldn’t help notice the people moving in the system, each bundled up from the cold elements above the ground. The one detail I did notice that was different from other subway riders, is the lack of smiling. At first, I thought this was because of the cold, each rider knowing the winter is upon them and feeling miserable. But it wasn’t the winter, it’s a cultural characteristic in Russia, smiling is viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect. The riders were not being rude or feeling miserable, just being themselves as Russians in the Moscow cold winter.
The other noticeable characteristic in most of the subway stations is the influence of the communist government. As I stated earlier, each station is different, some stations are devoted to the Soviet Socialist way of life. The collective farming, smelting of steel, building of weapons of war all being depicted on the ceilings and walls of stations. All showing that the socialist way of life is making life better in the Soviet Union. Along with these pictures of government socialist progress are the pictures of Karl Marx, Lenin and Stalin all scattered throughout the subway system. Now blended, in current modern Russia, with these founding fathers of the communist Soviet system are the modern trappings of surveillance, which leads one to the notion of “big brother” is always watching.
As “big brother” watches, I leave the subway station, up the escalator and out to the cold Moscow winter. An escalator similar to the one I had seen pictured years earlier.
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Jamie Maciuszek is an American Fine Art Photographer; who calls Atlanta his home. After graduating from college, he began his career as a computer programmer who became an entrepreneur and business owner in the computer consulting arena. Selling this business afforded him the opportunity to finally follow his passion, photography.
Needing a place to start, Jamie found George DeWolfe MFA, an award-winning photographer, and mentored under him for three years. Also, influenced and inspired early on by Greg Gorman, David Allen Harvey and Seth Resnick; understanding photography doesn’t answer all the questions, but leaves something to the imagination.
As an artist, shadows, light, depth of field, motion blur, ambient and artificial light are used to shape his vision. Refining these tools into a fundamental methodology, he continues to push his photography further into new places he’s never been before. Experimenting with landscapes, portraits, street photography, with strong forms, clean lines to show a reality that is not just perceived by the observer, but felt. This is what impassions him to press the camera shutter.
Professionally, Jamie’s images have appeared domestically and internationally in various publications. Images have also been displayed in galleries and venues such as Scarab Club and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Numerous accolades over the years, from Atlanta Photography Group and Atlanta Celebrates Photography.