CHICAGO — The Russian city of Sochi, host to the 2014 Winter Olympics, is the focus of a new photography exhibition that debuts in the U.S. Jan. 9 at the DePaul Art Museum. “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus,” by photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen, also will travel to Canada and New York and be on view in Europe. The exhibition portrays Sochi at a combustible crossroads of war, tourism and history.
“These beautiful, evocative photos show the Sochi we won’t see on TV: the faded Soviet resort city with turbulent politics and a tough economy. We come away with a deeper and more complex view of the glitz and glamour of the games,” said Louise Lincoln, director of the museum at DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus.
Hornstra and van Bruggen have been documenting the rapidly changing area around Sochi since 2009, exploring the small-yet-complicated region just before the glare of international media attention arrives. “Never before have the Olympic Games been held in a region that contrasts more strongly with the glamour of the event than Sochi,” wrote van Bruggen.
A Soviet‐era resort town on the Black Sea, Sochi is in the heart of an impoverished region embroiled in ethnic and nationalistic conflict. It is still a tourist destination, which the project creators call “the Florida of Russia,” with vacationers flocking to the sanatoria for spa treatments and relaxation. “On the coast, old Soviet–era sanatoria stand shoulder to shoulder with the most expensive hotels and clubs of the Russian Riviera. By 2014 the area around Sochi will have been changed beyond recognition,” wrote van Bruggen.
Hornstra and van Bruggen present a study in contrasts. The region supports entertainment and tourism but also struggles with poverty, corruption, displacement and terrorism. “The Sochi Project” combines documentary storytelling and contemporary photography by utilizing a variety of formats: photographs, videos, text, and self-published books.
“‘The Sochi Project’ reveals the unseen side of a highly visible global event. These photos stand in stark relief with the typically glossy press images of the Olympics,” said Gregory J. Harris, assistant curator at the DePaul Art Museum. He is curator for the Chicago edition of the exhibition.
“The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus” is co-organized by the DePaul Art Museum and Aperture Foundation, New York. Aperture also has published a 512-page book to accompany the exhibition.
The exhibition will be at the DePaul Art Museum Jan. 9 to March 24. A reception and book signing with Hornstra and van Bruggen will be held Jan. 17 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
A workshop with photographer Rob Hornstra will be held at the DePaul Art Museum on Jan. 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Becoming an Independent Photographer: DIY Storytelling, Self-publishing, and Project Funding” is co-organized with Filter Photo Festival. The cost is $75; register at http://sochiproject.eventbrite.com.
Following its showing in Chicago, “The Sochi Project” will travel to the CONTACT Photo Festival in Toronto, FotoFocus in Cincinnati and the Aperture Gallery in New York. Concurrent with the exhibition in Chicago, “The Sochi Project” also will be on view in Antwerp, Belgium and Salzburg, Austria. For more information, visit http://www.thesochiproject.org/en.
In this DePaul Art Minute video, Hornstra and van Bruggen discuss the region and its "huge contrasts. Harris describes how the extraordinary photos tell important, touching stories about an area of the world that is often ignored: http://depaulne.ws/SochiArtMin
The DePaul Art Museum at 935 W. Fullerton, just east of the CTA’s Fullerton ‘L’ stop, is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, call 773-325-7506 or visit http://www.depaul.edu/museum.
Gregory J. Harris