KAUNAS PHOTO 2015 » The forbidden fruit of Sochi Winter Olympics on display at Kaunas Photo festival

The forbidden fruit of Sochi Winter Olympics on display at Kaunas Photo festival

On Friday, 15th of January at 5 p.m. KAUNAS PHOTO festival invites to National M. K Čiurlionis Art Museum, M. Žilinskas Art Gallery for the opening of the classical exhibition of “slow journalism”, “The Sochi project: Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus” by the Dutch photographer Rob Hornstra and journalist Arnold van Bruggen. An exhibition is a result of work of five years and extensive travels to Caucasus, displaying photographs, maps and explanatory texts that reveal a story of Sochi during the preparations to Winter Olympic Games in 2014. Exhibition that has been presented in numerous galleries and museums from New York to Delhi, in a different way each time, premiers in the Baltic States in Kaunas and will be on display until 21th of February.

© Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project. From: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture). Olga, Sochi, 2012 - Olga, twentynine, is the manager of a strip club in the Zhemchuzhina Hotel (meaning “pearl”) in the center of Sochi. She hates it when people don’t understand that dancing is a form of art as well. Her dream is to start a family and have babies, she says. But whatever happens: she will continue dancing.

Olga, twentynine, is the manager of a strip club in the Zhemchuzhina Hotel (meaning “pearl”) in the center of Sochi. She hates it when people don’t understand that dancing is a form of art as well. Her dream is to start a family and have babies, she says. But whatever happens: she will continue dancing. 2012 © Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project. From: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture).

From 2009 through 2013, photographer Rob Hornstra and journalist Arnold van Bruggen traveled to Sochi, Russia, and the surrounding Caucasus, returning repeatedly to this isolated and incredibly complicated region in the midst of its preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Together, the images and texts unpack the complex, multivalent story of this contested region, remaining all the more relevant for the insight they provide into the “true face of Russia” post-Sochi, and following the annexation of the Crimea, the conflict in Ukraine, and the brutal murder of Boris Nemtsov. Hornstra’s photographic approach combines the best of slow-form documentary storytelling with contemporary portraiture, found photographs, and other visual elements collected over the course of their travels. Van Bruggen contributes a series of engaging stories about the people, the land, and its turbulent history.

Photographic, texts, exposed in parity, and other elements disclose the most tender and inveterate sore of Russia. While in Sochi a lot of money is being invested in the Olympics, many villages here barely have running water or gas. Moreover, at the tops of Caucasus Mountains still was on-going war against rebels. While Putin dreamed about Olympic celebration and restored image of Russia in the world a lot of Russians dreamed about country without restricted human rights and discriminating laws.

As the artists pointed out, since the start of their project, they have had over 15 group and solo exhibitions throughout Europe, North America and Delhi, India. An exhibition in Kaunas is their first opportunity to bring The Sochi Project to a former Soviet Union country, a part of Europe where the propaganda of Russia is constantly attempting to create a rift in the society, and where the military build-up of Russia is seen with distrust and fear. Authors hope that their visit, lecture and exhibition bring debate to the crowd and will inspire photographers, journalists and documentary makers around the region.

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas, director of KAUNAS PHOTO festival emphasizes that “The Sochi Project’s” is an unmatched success in the world of today’s art photography and independent book publishing. The first edition of 5000 copies of the main project book “Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus” sold very fast. Now you can buy the second edition. Kavaliauskas adds that paradoxically, one of the best services that the Russia’s propaganda /censorship could do to the young artists, was to ban the opening of the projected premiere exhibition of “The Sochi Project” in Moscow in 2013. The show was uninstalled last minute and authors were not given visas to enter Russia. Exhibition was opened in an alternative place by open-minded artists’ community and the two authors attended the opening online. It was a rare case, when the mainstream global media talked about a photography exhibition!

Various elements of “The Sochi Project” have harvested awards, including the Canon Prize for innovative photojournalism in 2010; the Magnum Expression Award in 2011; the Sony World Photography Award (Arts & Culture category) in 2012; and the World Press Photo award for Arts & Entertainment Stories in 2012.

“The Sochi Project”, a contemporary masterpiece of photography and journalism in the tradition of James A Gee and Walker Evans is produced in collaboration with studio of design “Kummer & Herrman“.

Long-running project found its results in a number of books. To name but a few: “This is the new face of Russia, our Russia” in 2015, “Kiev” in 2012, “Empty land, Promised land, Forbidden land” in 2013, “An Atlas of War and Tourism in The Caucasus – Signed” in 2013 and lot of others. The last-mentioned book earn a lot of awards such as: “Dutch Doc Award” in 2014, at “European Design Awards” in 2014 got a silver medal, “Photo Espana Book Award” in 2014, “FILAF Book Award” in 2014.

More books about “The Sochi project” find here >>

“Kaunas Photo” is the longest-running annual photo art festival in the Baltic States, since 2004, organized by public institution “Šviesos raštas“. “Kaunas Photo” festival’s major sponsors are Lithuanian Culture Council and Kaunas Municipality. The exhibition “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus” in Kaunas is supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Vilnius.

The exhibition of „The Sochi Project“ is a prelude to the thirteenth „Kaunas Photo“ festival program and it is the largest among the stand-alone parts of the festival in 2016. The main program of the festival will start on 19 of August.

All photographs © Rob Hornstra / The Sochi Project. From: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture).

Illustrations files available upon request from festival@kaunasphoto.info
Illustrations provided can only be published in conjunction with news about the exhibition in Kaunas Photo. Next to published images, full copyright line, as below gallery thumbnails, must be included.