Tag Archives: Rob Hornstra

apertureWEEK: Online Photography Reading Shortlist

Aperture aggregates the best posts from this past week in the photography blogosphere.

Summer Songs of the Russian Riviera

In 2004, when photographer Rob Hornstra wanted to publish his first cohesive body of work in a book, he ran into a common problem—he couldn’t find a publisher who was willing to fund it. Hornstra’s solution was less than common: he decided to raise the initial funds himself by selling copies in advance via word of mouth and social networking. It took a month, but he succeeded. Hornstra decided to jump start the publication of his next two books the same way, with each volume of pre-orders selling out more quickly than the last. Hornstra is now on his sixth book (plus newspapers, postcards, prints and posters), and still relies primarily on his own crowdfunding efforts to fund them and their related projects. Crowdfunding and self-publishing are less rare these days, but that is thanks in part to pioneers like Hornstra whose distinctive eye and determination helped blaze the trail to get important work to receptive audiences without the backing of traditional journalistic and publishing outlets.

Hornstra’s latest book is on the restaurant singers of Russia’s favorite Black Sea resort town of Sochi. Any self-respecting restaurant on the coast has a live house singer to belt out sappy Russian chansons—take a vodka-soaked ballad and drop in a techno beat, all at full volume—from behind an electric keyboard or a laptop. Sochi is the center of the world, as far as this type of live entertainment is concerned, and Hornstra saw it as the perfect metaphor to depict the city and the region, traveling to more than 60 restaurants over 100 miles of coastline in 2011 to make the 37 photos for the book. The pictures mercifully strip away the noise of the music and cancel out the dark rooms and sharp flashing lights with Hornstra’s trademark, even lighting, allowing the viewer to patiently examine every telling detail of the interiors, including the faux Greek, French, Roman, Slavic and American décor.

Sochi Singers is in fact only the latest installment of The Sochi Project, Hornstra’s five-year commitment to exploring the region in the years leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics Games, which Sochi will host exactly two years from this month. Partnering with writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen, who wrote the essay in Sochi Singers, his goal is to paint a more complete picture of the area than the public is likely to see during those few short weeks in 2014. They have already traveled to a Soviet-era sanatorium outside of Sochi and the troubled region of Abkhazia and the Republic of Georgia, located only 13 miles along the coast to the southeast. Next month they plan to travel to the Caucasus mountains to the east, and the infamous breakaway republics of Dagestan, North Ossetia and Chechnya.

As Russia cycles into the news again next month when former president Vladimir Putin will likely be voted back into office, it is Hornstra’s commitment to “slow journalism” that allows audiences to put the headlines in context, as well as to see past the propaganda and pomp and circumstance that will inevitably surround the Winter Games. By examining the stark contrasts contained within the small region of the world, and recording both what changes—and what remains the same—Hornstra’s work reflects something deeper and more historic: Russia’s continuing search for a post-Soviet identity.

Rob Hornstra is a Dutch photographer. Learn more about the Sochi project hereThe Sochi Singers series recently won first place for the Arts and Entertainment—Stories category at the World Press Photo awards.

20 years of Savignano Immagini

Italy’s Savignano Immagini Festival (SI Fest) in the small town of Savignano sul Rubicone is celebrating its twentieth year. I’ve just spent two days at the festival and it has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Curators Massimo Sordi and Stefania Rossi have helped to turn a local photojournalism-focused festival into a far more international event that aims to keep up with contemporary photographic trends. With a Miroslav Tíchy retrospective, a clever presentation of Michael Wolf’s Tokyo Compression series, solo shows of Rob Hornstra’s Sochi project and Bernard Fuchs roads and paths, a ‘global’ group show on the theme of occupancy, and a lot more, they have put together a genuinely interesting mix of work around the theme of fragility.

Massimo Cristladi. Linosa, 2009 from the 'Suspended' series

However the stand-out exhibition for me was homegrown, an intelligent and intriguing presentation of Guido Guidi’s work on the Tomba Brion by the architect Carlo Scarpa (a book of the work has just been published  by Hatje Cantz). Guidi’s astute sequencing and analytical approach reveals the building’s extraordinary interplay with light as the sun passes through the sky. The Occupancy show was another favourite of mine; aside from the strength of the work on show, the exhibition also benefited from the space itself, a local government building from the Mussolini era covered in traces of its past life, adding another layer of occupancy in the process. The festival also has an ‘Off’ component which I didn’t have the time to explore, aside from an exhibition of Sicilian photographer Massimo Cristaldi’s latest series Suspended which presents a compelling image of the landscapes of his native island far removed from the clichés of mafia, corruption or ancient religious festivals.

The festival has put together a healthy programme of talks and discussions. Portfolio and book reviews kept me away from most of the action, but I did manage to catch Gerry Badger’s preview of the forthcoming third volume of the Badger and Parr Photobook: A History series. The book will be divided into three chapters: Propaganda, Protest and Desire and I’m sure there are many rare book dealers who are trembling in anticipation for its release (they are apparently going to have to wait until 2013).

Prints from Henk Wildschut's Shelter series

Savignano is a small festival, not on the scale of Arles or indeed Noorderlicht which opened on the same weekend. However, I think it benefits from a more human scale and If you throw in the fact that it is impossible to find a bad meal in Savignano, SI Fest is definitely worth a visit.

Exhibition of Michael Wolf's Tokyo Compression

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