In 2011 we launched the Sketchbooks, a new series that provided an outlet for small, worthy stories that fell outside the scope of our other publications. We also hoped that the booklets, which all had the same format of 15 x 21 cm (5 7/8 x 8 3/8 in.) and a print run of 750 copies, would generate additional revenue to cover the rising costs of the Sochi Project’s final year. The sales price of 35 euros was partly a gift to The Sochi Project with the aim to publish new work. The first sketchbook Safety First made it in that way possible to publish the annual publication Sochi Singers. Although there were enough stories to produce an extensive series of sketchbooks, we have not come beyond three copies due to time constraints.


Safety First (2011)

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 out that the photos I had taken in the refugee apartments had been damaged by one of the city many scanners.

Winner Magnum expression Award 2011


Luisa and Rashik, Grozny, Chechnya (January 5, 2011)


Former School no. 1 in Beslan, North Ossetia (January 4, 2011)


Diana, Grozny, Chechnya (January 5, 2011)

“Wrestling is serious, because life here is serious.”

Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov, Makhachkala, 2012


Rasul (10), Khasavyurt, Dagestan, 2012

Life Here is Serious (2012)

Wrestling and the North Caucasus are inextricably linked. Not only is wrestling the most popular sport in the region, the North Caucasus is also the birthplace of many Olympic champions. They are honoured as heroes. Above all, wrestling as a tactical, brutal sport rich in traditions is a metaphor for the North Caucasus itself: a hospitable but violent region. As we travelled through the North Caucasus, wrestling was an excellent cover to move freely. Even when we were on our way to a harrowing human rights story, even when we visited a village that had rebelled against its own government, as soon as we were stopped wrestling was the magic word of reassurance. “Of course, wrestling!” And the stories followed. During our trip we also became hooked on the great sport.


Spartak wrestling school, Khasavyurt, Dagestan, 2012

“In the North Caucasus, if you throw one stone you will hit a European champion. If you throw two stones, you will surely hit a world champion. If you throw a few stones you’ll get Olympic champions.”

Sports journalist, Makhachkala, Dagestan, 2012

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Lazarevskaya, 2011

KIEV (2012)

The photographs in in this Sketchbook were taken using a KIEV-6S camera given to me in Sochi by architect, DJ and designer Pavel Lesnevsky. His father-in-law bought the camera in the mid-1970s. I fell instantly in love with it, with its robust design and the nostalgic notion that it had recorded Sochi from the 1970s. I photographed things that I had never seen through the lens of my Mamiya. After several days it suddenly occurred to me that many old Soviet cameras have technical defects. The KIEV immediately went back into its box and stayed there for the rest of the trip. When I got home, I found that the camera’s film transport mechanism was defective.


Sochi, 2011


Sochi, 2011

“The release of smaller, purely photo-centric books, has been a part of The Sochi Project for the past years now. The beauty of these smaller books is that they allow for a bit more playfulness in an otherwise often very heavy series of publications.”

—Consientious, 2013


Sketchbook 01 
Safety First

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

The first sketchbook, Safety First, is composed entirely of negatives that were damaged by X-ray scanners during our stay in Grozny. In the Chechen capital, these scanners are placed not only at the entrance to the airport and government buildings, but also in shops, gyms, restaurants, and outdoors on squares. In Safety First, Arnold explores the difference between security and a false sense of security in the North Caucasus, while Rob describes a day’s work in the region with photos that initially appeared unusable.

15 x 21 cm (5 7/8 x 8 3/8 in.), 48 pages, 41 color photographs, hardbound with photo-illustrated dust jacket, print run of 750 copies.


Sketchbook 02 
Life Here is Serious

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

In our second sketchbook Life here is serious we describe the North Caucasus’s most popular national sport: wrestling. Every town and village has a wrestling school, and North Caucasians consistently win medals at the Summer Olympics. In the Caucasus, wrestling is not just a sport, it is an integral part of the culture and history of a region paralyzed by war and violence. “Wrestling is serious,” one coach told us, “because life here is serious.”

15 x 21 cm (5 7/8 x 8 3/8 in.), 48 pages and 1 fold-out, 28 color photographs, hardback with photo-illustrated dust jacket, print run of 750 copies.

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Sketchbook 03 

Text: Rob Hornstra. Design: Kummer & Herrman.

The third sketchbook, Kiev, is an ode to analog photography and depicts Sochi in the summer as shot from the hip. In 2011, Rob fell in love with a forty-year-old KIEV medium-format camera, which a friend gave him in Sochi. Over the following days, he roamed the city with his new acquisition. When he got home and developed the film, he found that the KIEV’s film transport system was defective. The photoled booklet includes a short piece he wrote about analog photography and its wonderful unpredictability.

15 x 21 cm (5 7/8 x 8 3/8 in.), 16 color photographs, cardboard fold-out book in a photo-illustrated wrapper, print run of 750 copies.

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Vrij Nederland (dutch), July 2012

KIEV est une ode à la photo argentique, ses surprises, ses imperfections, ses accidents. Les appareils de conception soviétique sont connus pour leur piètre qualité: toutes les images du livre sont endommagées par des rayures dues à la mécanique défectueuse d’avancement du film. L’ouvrage est un objet exceptionnel.”

—Polka Magazine, 2012


de Volkskrant (Dutch), December 2012


Volkskrant Magazine (Dutch), July 2012

120203_nrcnext_safety_first (Dutch), February 2012


nrc (Dutch), February 2013

130221_nrc_next_wrestling (Dutch), February 2013

Joerg Colberg (Conscientious) talking about Safety First