Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sanatorium by Rob Hornstra & Arnold van Bruggen

Due to my general laziness after the holidays I see that Andrew Phelps, the fine photographer and blogger of the booksite Buffet, has beaten me to the punch by mentioning Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen's newest publication Sanatorium.

Hornstra's book 101 Billionaires was one of my favorites of the year from 2008 so I was excited to see his endeavors with the Sochi Project were paying off and he had published this new title with help from donors.

is offered only to people who donate to help fund his version of slow journalism documenting the changes taking place to Sochi, a town in Russia, which is preparing for the arrival of the 2014 Olympics. Working alongside the writer Arnold van Bruggen, Hornstra plans to photograph in the area over the next five years, and along the way, publish magazine articles and books to get the multitude of stories out. Sanatorium is the first.

In 1919, Lenin decreed that localities with curative properties should be property of the people and used for curative purposes. Accordingly, many sanatoriums sprung up along Sochi's 90 miles of coastline.

Hornstra's description is clean, large format portraits and interiors lit with flash. The environment seems filled with out dated machinery that looks as if it would do more harm than good. In one, a boy sits in a bathtub which is lined with tubes and spouts that look more for torture than healing. In others, the curative machinery Hornstra photographs look like left over props from science fiction films with their arm-like protrusions and incomprehensible purpose.

The metaphor of wish fulfillment is in the air. Wish fulfillment not just for the healing powers of the machinery, mud baths or mineral waters in the sanatorium pictured but also in the face lift that Sochi is getting for the 2014 Olympics. What will be the outcome of the world's eyes falling on Sochi and the years after it is all over.

Book-wise, Sanatorium is short (21 photos over 42 pages) but its sexy design and production values deserve attention. Designed by Kummer & Herman out of Utrecht, they employed an interesting double stitch binding that achieves a squared off spine and a division of text from the photographs which were printed on different paper stocks from one another. Sanatorium was printed in 350 copies.

To donate to Hornstra and van Bruggen's check their website here.