The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova 2013





Khava Gaisanova lives in Chermen, a village in the centre of the North Caucasus. Her husband disappeared in 2007, like so many men in the North Caucasus simply disappear, are kidnapped, arrested or buried in anonymous graves.

Writer Arnold van Bruggen and photographer Rob Hornstra met her by chance at the side of the road, where she sells water. They were intrigued by her story, which is drenched with blood but punctuated by the will to survive. Her history reads like the history of the North Caucasus itself.

The security forces ultimately prevented Hornstra and Van Bruggen from travelling through the region. Even the strong Khava was intimidated and her family has avoided all contact since. Her history reads like the history of the North Caucasus itself.

'The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova & the North Caucasus' is part of The Sochi Project, which documents the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.





Life Here is Serious 2012





Wrestling is by far the most popular sport in notorious republics such as Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. The sport is seen as a part of life, necessary to become a real man. Young boys also regard it as a route to fame and fortune. An Olympic champion from Chechnya reportedly receives several hundred thousand dollars from local leader Ramzan Kadyrov. And for the men who just don’t make the cut, there's always a job as a security guard.

'Life Here is Serious' is part of The Sochi Project, which documents the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.





Sochi Singers 2011





'Sochi Singers' has been awarded a World Press Photo Award '12 and Sony World Photography Award '12

The southern Russian city of Sochi lies on the Black Sea. It attracts predominantly Russian holidaymakers who come for a mix of sun, sea, sand and nightlife. Restaurants are plentiful and competition is fierce. In the past decade, Soviet interiors have been mostly replaced by an eclectic mix of Roman, Greek and other unidentifiable cultural elements. Every restaurant employs a regular live musician. From behind a laptop, they blast Russian chansons and popsa into the restaurant through a wall of speakers. This renders any kind of conversation impossible. But that’s not the reason why Russians go to a restaurant.

'Sochi Singers' is part of The Sochi Project, which documents the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.





Safety First 2011





'Safety First' has been awarded with the Magnum Expression Award 2011

In the Chechen capital Grozny, x-ray scanners are not only set up at the entrance to the airport or government buildings, but also to shops, gyms, restaurants and outside on the squares. Despite these safeguards, Grozny is far from being a safe city. In early January, I visited refugee apartments on the outskirts of Grozny. There was no x-ray scanner at the entrance. Entire families with children share one room. The living conditions are dire. There is no running water and the building is full of leaks. The residents were angry and desperate. They accused the government of corruption and personal enrichment and felt totally ignored. It is more likely that corruption, abuse of power and excessive use of force by the Chechen and Russian governments increase insecurity, than that the scanners improve safety. When I got home, I found that the photos I had taken in the refugee apartments had been damaged by one of the city’s many scanners.

'Safety First' is part of The Sochi Project, which documents the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.





Empty land, Promised land,Forbidden land 2010





In Empty Land, Promised Land, Forbidden Land photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen explore the unknown country Abkhazia on the Black Sea. Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after a short, violent civil war in '92-'93 and was recognised as independent in 2008 by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the atoll of Nauru. Hornstra and Van Bruggen spent the last four years travelling through the country, seeing how it is slowly trying to claw its way out of isolation. They visited the refugees in Georgia and described the attempts made by the Abkhazian government to repopulate the empty, war-ravaged country with new immigrants.

'Empty land, Promised land, Forbidden land' is part of The Sochi Project, which documents the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.





On the other side of the mountains 2010





'On the other side of the mountains' is a story about Krasny Vostok, a village with one foot in the 19th century, still partially without gas and electricity. It is barely 200 kilometres from Sochi, but a world away. There is no reason to portray this village; and that's why we did. The Caucasus is more than just conflict and refugees, fundamentalist Islam or billion dollar Games.

'On the other side of the mountains' is part of The Sochi Project, which documents the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.





Sanatorium 2009





The coastal strip on the Black Sea around the subtropical resort of Sochi (Russia) has for decades been famous for its sanatoria. During the Soviet era, millions of workers were sent to one of these sanatoria annually to revive their spirits and strengthen their bodies. Today, the sanatoria are still fully booked year round mostly with elderly or disabled Russians. In the run-up to the Olympic Winter Games in 2014, almost all the sanatoria will be converted into luxury hotels. There is no place for sentimentality when it comes to the past. 'Sanatorium' is an ode to these Soviet strongholds, revealing a deep-seated love for spas that is firmly embedded in the Russian soul.

'Sanatorium' is part of The Sochi Project, which documents the explosive region around the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held.





101 Billionaires 2008





Under Vladimir Putin’s rule, Russia has reclaimed its position among the superpowers of the world in the past eight years, the economic recession and the tumultuous nineties seemingly all but forgotten. Thanks to the country’s huge abundance of raw materials such oil and natural gas, the Russian economy is flourishing as never before. After a mere 18 years of capitalism, the January 2008 issue of Finans Magazine reported that there are currently 101 billionaires in Russia.
It is difficult to detect much prosperity in the book '101 Billionaires', which portrays an entirely different segment of the Russian population. Far away from the glitter and glamour of Moscow, the world’s most expensive city, we find the impoverished Russians, victims of the ‘tough-as-nails’ capitalism with which Russia made its name immediately after the fall of Communism.





Willem & Kid





In my hometown Utrecht I am living in a district called Ondiep, which is listed as one of the most problematic districts in the Netherlands. My favourite neighbours Willem and Kid are both real Ondiep people, although they are complete opposites. When I moved to Ondiep I started photographing them. I will continue to follow my neighbours Willem and Kid until we are all forced to leave as a result of housing development plans.




Roots of the Rúntur 2006





In the past twenty years, the fishing industry in Iceland has changed thoroughly. A system of quotas was introduced determining the amount of fish that is allowed to be caught. This lead to an industrialisation of the fleet in order to be able to compete on the world market. The traditional craft of fishing gave way to modern mass production. This more thorough industrialisation in the fishing industry changed the country and its people. A job in this industry is no longer popular among Icelandic youths. They move away from the desolate fishing villages in great numbers. Immigrants from Eastern Europe and Asia fill the gap the Icelanders leave behind and work in this formerly traditional, Icelandic sector. The older people who stay behind, see how their local environment is changing and long for the past. They are severely bothered by the lack of interest in local culture and history shown by the Icelandic youth and the newcomers. For teenagers, the villages provide little entertainment. The car is their social gathering. In their cars they talk, listen to music, drink, smoke and flirt with each other. For hours on end they drive around in the same small circle through the village. The circle is often no larger than 500 meters and it is the same circle their grandparents used to walk: the Rúntur.




Communism & Cowgirls 2004





'Communism & Cowgirls' deals with the first Russian generation growing up after the decline of communism. These young people are influenced by Western subcultures and are free to pursue individual development in a way that would have been unthinkable for their parents. At the same time they don’t know how to handle the liberties offered to them. They are growing up with grandparents who still speak well of Lenin. They still live and work among the architecture produced by communism. And – true to the spirit of Communism – they still agitate against American capitalism. Yet they drink Coca Cola and wear the latest fashion as shown on MTV.