Sochi Singers

Sochi attracts mainly Russian tourists in the summer. On the one hand, they come looking for modern glamour; on the other, they attach great importance to Russian traditions. The ultimate example of this can be found in Sochi’s nightlife. Restaurants try to attract customers with flashing neon signs and semi-luxurious interiors. At the same time, every restaurant upholds a well-known Russian tradition of live musicians who belt out Russian chansons from behind an electric piano. Sochi Singers explores how a deeply rooted Russian tradition goes hand in hand with the city’s new capitalist glamour. The images are combined with quotes from popular Russian chansons.

Recipient of Sony World Photography Awards - Arts & Culture; World Press Photo - Arts & Entertainment Stories, 2012


Lubimy moy, Restaurant Moniya, Novomikhailovsky.


Kuriu, Restaurant Eurasia, Sochi

“The lady went to the restaurant. After all, you only live once. She ordered a hundred grams of vodka. She wanted to forget. He has a large family, but he said nothing. His heart was poisoned, his friend told her everything.”

—Tania Tishinskaya


Nu vot i vse, Restaurant Raduga, Khosta


Quando, Quando, Quando, Restaurant Shelkovy Putj, Sochi

“You have plunged a knife into my heart. I can forgive you anything but not betrayal and lies.”

—Stas Mikhailov


A dlya vas ya nikto, Restaurant Yug, Kudepsta


Vino kachnulos na dne bokala, Restaurant Olymp, Novomikhailovsky


Za chetire morya, Restaurant David, Novomikhailovsky

“Thieves alas are not allowed to love. Everyone has their cross to bear, but it is easy to forget things for a while. And when you drink vodka with a lady of the night, fate creeps up on us again.”

—Mikhail Krug


Digi Digi, Restaurant Lilya, Lazarevskaya


Strana Svetsi, Restaurant Vody Lagidze, Sochi

“We could not save our love, we have not found its true path. I write this through my pain, things will never be the same.”

—Stas Mikhailov


Kuriu, Restaurant Odisseya, Loo

Elevator music


Ot Pochti, Restaurant Yug, Lazarevskaya

“I will miss you very much, every day and every night. I will remember your gentle hands, I will not hide my tears.”

—Lubov Uspenskaya


Zelenoglazoe taksi, Restaurant Zhemchuzhina, Novomikhailovsky


Kayfuem, Restaurant Sabrina, Loo

“As it is, we can take in all the details of decor and setting in what is a fascinating, anthropological look at a social phenomenon.”

—Martin Parr & Gerry Badger



Text: Arnold van Bruggen. Design: Kummer & Herrman.

The book Sochi Singers was published in November 2011 as part of The Sochi Project. It is an exuberant oversized edition, with gold silk screened lettering on top of a glossy varnished cover. The first 250 copies came with a special cotton bag. Sochi Singers is included in The Photobook: A History Part III by Martin Parr & Gerry Badger.

English, softcover with dust jacket, 80 pages, 37 color photographs, 29.7 x 38 cm (11 5/8 x 15 in.), print run of 1,000 copies, 250 copies in a printed cotton bag.

Winner in the PDN Photo Annual - Book Category, 2012 


FoMu, Antwerp, Belgium, 2013


Design: Kummer & Herrman

Sochi Singers billboards were especially developed for overview exhibitions of The Sochi Project, but may also be presented as single works in or outside museum settings. There are three double-sided versions, which makes it possible to select from six different images. One billboard consists of forty-two unbound sheets that collectively can be assembled into a billboard of 208 x 250 cm. (81 7/8 x 98 3/8 in.) featuring one of the ever-present karaoke singers. The billboards are color offset printed in an edition of 250 copies.

Utrecht, The Netherlands: self-published, 2013. Coated matte paper 135 gsm, 42 unbound sheets - A3 of 29.7 x 42 cm. (11 6/8 x 16 1/2 in.), packed in cardboard packaging with a numbered label.


Contact Gallery, Toronto, Canada, 2014


Fotohof, Salzburg, Austria, 2014


“Sochi is the center of the world, as far as this type of live entertainment is concerned, and Hornstra saw it as the perfect metaphor to depict the city and the region, traveling to more than 60 restaurants over 100 miles of coastline in 2011 to make the 37 photos for the book.”

—Time Lightbox


Tipi Bookstore, Bruxelles, Belgium, 2013

Instruction video: How to make a Sochi Singers billboard at home


NRC Next (Dutch), January 2012

Picture Perfect: The making of Sochi Singers (2011)


Hit Star Magazine (Russia), February 2012


De Volkskrant (Netherlands), January 2012

The pictures mercifully strip away the noise of the music and cancel out the dark rooms and sharp flashing lights with Hornstra’s trademark, even lighting, allowing the viewer to patiently examine every telling detail of the interiors, including the faux Greek, French, Roman, Slavic and American décor.

—Time Lightbox, 2012

World Press Photo: Interview about Sochi Singers


Amica Magazine (Italy), September, 2012

Interview Channel 1, Russian Television