Photographer Rob Hornstra and journalist Arnold van Bruggen have been collaborating since 2009 to explore and document the turbulent region of Sochi, Russia. Over the course of five years and eleven visits, they practiced a form of “slow journalism” in order to delve deeply into the complexities of the area, and its remarkable transition in preparation to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. A subtropical Soviet- era resort on the Black Sea in the heart of the Caucasus region and far from central Moscow, Sochi lies in close proximity to the conflict zone of Abkhazia, and the impoverished, unstable republics of the North Caucasus. As a place where beach-tourism abuts terrorism, corruption, and poverty, it is full of contradictions. Not surprisingly, Hornstra and van Bruggen met with closed border crossings and overzealous law enforcement officers in the process of developing this project, and nearing its end, they were denied entrance to Russia.
Through photographs, texts, videos, and books, Hornstra and van Bruggen draw viewers into the story of Sochi, focusing on evocative individual narratives that collectively chronicle larger issues. Along with their accompanying hardcover book of the same title, The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus, this exhibition unpacks the story of Russia’s continuing search for a post-Soviet identity. In the process, Hornstra and van Bruggen expose the far-reaching implications of international political and economic decisions as they meet with local conditions.
This exhibition at Organ Vida International Photography Festival offers a glimpse of the North Caucasus, one of the three explored regions within The Sochi Project.
Image: © Rob Hornstra / Flatland Gallery. From: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture).