This year we hosted Rob Hornstra and his DIY Storytelling workshop, which was one of our highlights of the year. The incredible depth of The Sochi Project, which Rob undertook with Arnold van Bruggen, is endlessly impressive. One of the many books they published that we picked up during his workshop was ‘The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova’ and, although not technically published this year, we’ve picked it our for our Advent Calendar. Take it away Bryony Good…
The Sochi Project was the product of Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen, who have been working together since 2007 to tell the story of Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Crowd funded by over 650 donators and a number of sponsors, overcoming a number of hurdles including being banned from Russia for a period of time, Honstra and Van Bruggen have produced an exciting and enveloping picture of a underrepresented place.
Returning repeatedly to this region as committed practitioners of what has become referred to as “slow journalism,” they have produced a number of publications as a product of their documentary storytelling. By engaging with this small yet incredibly complicated region the pair shed light upon elements of the people and the communities there that would otherwise have been overlooked.
The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova tells the story of Khava Gaisanova who lives in Chermen, a village that lies on the other side of the mountains to Sochi. In 2007 her husband disappeared, a common occurrence in North Caucasus. Many are kidnapped, arrested or simply executed and buried in anonymous graves, this story sets a bleak scene for the photographs we encounter in the book.
As a landscape photographer I am first drawn to the desolate mountains perfectly printed over the double page. The harsh landscape sets an isolated scene representative of the personal stories we are provided.
The portraiture, in contrast to the grand mountains, is beautifully understated. Simple and earnest, we are reminded that this project is not just about a place, but the people that call it their home.
The book is 34Euros and is available to buy from The Sochi Project website.