Rob Hornstra – Sochi Singers

Copyright Rob Hornstra 2011 self-published

Rob Hornosta, in the third of a series of photobooks, investigates a region that will soon be the site the 2014 summer Olympics. It is an attempt to document a region that is and that might soon be what was with the anticipated and pending changes to accommodate the Olympics. In this edition, he investigates one aspect of the Sochi culture and identity of this region, by examining the ever-present entertainment offered by the numerous restaurants that cater to the visiting tourist.

A series of photographs of the performing “cover bands” and “lounge acts” in the various Sochi restaurants intermingled with a few landscape photographs of the tourist vacationing on the rock laden beaches of the region. This is also an investigation of those entertainers whose work provide the entertainment, the music of the (day and) night.

Hornstra focuses on the entertainers using a rigid formula of centering his subjects in the middle of the horizontal frame obtained from a medium advantage point that incorporates the performers on their stage. His photographs remind me of the stylistic rigor employed in the industrial photographs by Brend and Hiller Becher. In Hornstra’s current body of work, unlike the cold and dispassionate Becher style, his subjects are warm, alive and sometime showing some vitality.

This series is also about what is unseen, but hinted at, as to the what the remainder of the restaurant may look like, who else is in the restaurant, or who is not, as to the age, gender and appearances of the patrons, as to who find this particular cover band appealing. The viewer is provided some tantalizing glimpses of the others, but they are unseen and allow us to create their presence.

In comparing the photographs, the differences and similarities between each of the performer(s) are fascinating, as to the details of their costuming, condition and complexity of the staging and the intensity they appear to bring into their work.

It is also obvious from the camera flash and location that these are not “stolen” photographs. Hornstra’s subjects know that they are both performing as a part of their work as well as performing for his lens. By the way, for those who have met Hornstra, you would know that with his tall lean stature, he does stand out in a crowd.

Although Hornstra states his desires to use a documentary style to capture the “before the Olympics come to town”, but in examining the photographs, I find this is still a narrative about current cultural change. Although a few of the performers are accompanied with actual instruments, who can not miss the omnipresent portable computers that provide the performers play list, lyrics and accompanying music.

As I examine his narrative, I suspect that the Olympics will be a blimp in the history of Socchi and that this region will very soon return to the normalcy that Hornstra investigates today.

As a photobook object, this is a large stiff cover photobook encased within a slightly stiffer dust cover. The lithographic pages appear robustly glued into the binding. The book has an interesting twist, with the interior photographs printed full bleed but at right angles to the opening of the book and you feel you are reading a calendar, sans the top holes to fix it to your wall.

By Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Other Rob Hornstra photobooks reviewed on The PhotoBook: 101 Billionaires – Crisis Edition

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