Rob Hornstra: DIY Storytelling

Over the weekend of May 31 and June 1 at Aperture Foundation, photographer Rob Hornstra led a very informative workshop on self-publishing a photobook. Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen are the creators of The Sochi Project, a “slow journalism” series focusing on the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and the authors of the 2013 Aperture book The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus.

At the workshop, participants learned about Hornstra’s process of financing, shooting, designing, promoting, and selling each of his self-published projects, allowing them to gain insight into the advantages and disadvantages of working as an independent book publisher. Students were also encouraged to share their own projects and were given advice on transforming their work into photobooks. The workshop ended with a discussion on the landscape of contemporary photobook publishing, which included some examples of successful and unique photobooks, and a look at the most prestigious photobook awards.

From the students:

“The workshop helped me with my inner dialogue as a photographer.”

“The workshop was terrific. It exceeded my expectations. Rob was really great, very open and willing to answer questions no matter what they were. Rob was a great teacher.”


Olga (29)

Hornstra, Olga, 2012.

Ashuba's family

Hornstra, Zashrikwa, Edrese, and Their Guns, Kodori, Abkhazia, 2009.

Beach in Adler

Hornstra, The Beach, Adler, Sochi region, Russia, 2011.

Raman Eloev (88)

Hornstra, A Dying Breed, Leningorsky Rayon, South Ossetia, 2011.

Last pic of the day

Hornstra, A Two-Hundred-Year Conflict, Gimry, Dagestan, 2012.

Hamzad Ivloev (44)

Hornstra, Hamzad Saved Cowards, Karabulak, Ingushetia, 2012.

Join Rob Hornstra for a two-day intensive workshop for photographers and storytellers who wish to learn how to construct and carry out long-term photography projects. Since 2009, photographer Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen have collaborated on The Sochi Project, documenting the Russian city of Sochi before it entered the global spotlight as the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. In this workshop, Hornstra will share his insight into the funding and marketing of a self-published photo project. “Many ambitious photographers are conservative when it comes to presenting their projects, offering their work—often free of charge—to newspapers, magazines, or book publishers. They put their fate in the hands of others and wait,” says Hornstra. “That’s unnecessary. Do it yourself.” Over the course of two days, he will outline how the Internet and digital printing techniques have opened up endless possibilities for self-published work. The curriculum will also address how to attract an audience to your project, collaboration between photographers and writers, and the process of “slow journalism.” This workshop’s main objective is to help students become liberated photographers and publishers, ready to begin sharing their stories with the world.

Rob Hornstra (born in Borne, the Netherlands, 1975) attended the Utrecht School of the Arts, the Netherlands, specializing in photographic design. He is a photographer and self-publisher of slow-form documentary work. In addition to The Sochi Project, he is the founder and former artistic director of the documentary photography organization FOTODOK, Utrecht. Hornstra’s self-published publications include The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova, KIEV, Life Here is Serious, Sochi Singers, Safety First, Empty land Promised land Forbidden land, On the Other Side of the Mountains, Sanatorium, 101 Billionaires, Roots of the Rúntur, and Communism & Cowgirls. He recently had solo exhibitions at Galerie Fotohof, Salzburg, Austria; Huis Marseille Photography Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; De Paul Art Museum, Chicago; and the FotoMuseum, Antwerp, Belgium. He is represented by Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam/Paris.

The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucacus, with photographs by Rob Hornstra and text by Arnold van Bruggen, is now available. A traveling exhibition of photographs from the book will be on view at Aperture in summer 2014.

Sign up for Aperture's weekly newsletter: