In 2009, Arnold van Bruggen and Rob Hornstra started work on a mammoth project. They set themselves the five-year goal of documenting the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held. From the little-known, renegade country Abkhazia to the south of Sochi, to notorious republics such as Chechnya and Dagestan on the other side of the mountains. They form the contrasting region around Sochi, which is characterised by poverty, separatism, terrorism, mass beach tourism and the most expensive Winter Games ever organised.
The Sochi Project was first presented in 2009 at the Fotofestival Naarden (NL), where it was explained that the project would be partly financed through private donors. This was a unique concept in Europe that would be widely followed in the years thereafter.
The Sochi Project attracted attention from the start, not only for its unique funding model but also the recognition it received. In early 2010, the first annual publication 'Sanatorium' won the New York Photo Book Award. The Dutch Canon Award, World Press Photo Award, Sony World Photography Award and Magnum Expression Award and others followed.
Corruption, violence, terrorism and tourism are recurring themes in the various stories within The Sochi Project’s geographical context. Completed stories are published in the form of interim books and exhibitions. Six books have appeared since 2009. The seventh book, a comprehensive account of the roots of the continuing violence in the North Caucasus, will be available early next year.
This presentation at Paris Photo is one of the final steps towards The Sochi Project’s ultimate goal: informing a broad audience about the tumultuous region where the 2014 Winter Olympics will take place. The project will act as a realistic counterpart to the facade that the Russian authorities will inevitably erect around the event.
The final book, 'The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism', will be published by Aperture and presented in the autumn of 2013 during the first major retrospective of The Sochi Project in FoMu Antwerp. In the same period a second exhibition will open in Winzavod Museum for Contemporary Art in Moscow. The presentation in Paris focuses mainly on recent work from The Sochi Project and shows some of the project’s contrasting central themes.
Rob Hornstra (1975, The Netherlands) is a Dutch photographer and self-publisher of documentary work. He is the founder and former artistic director of FOTODOK – Space for Documentary Photography. In 2009, together with the writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen, he started the Sochi Project, which over five years would document the area of Olympic Sochi. www.thesochiproject.org