From February 16th till March 3rd 2011 Flatland Gallery brings photographers Rob Hornstra (1975) and Florian van Roekel (1980). Both have received international acclaim for their commitment to create a simple truth with images often portraying everyday life, creating truthful storylines that differ - in a way - from the visual reality. That is, since what we as individuals perceive as being there already, if you like – does not hold an absolute value of truth, both photographers believe it is only through their own eyes they can enhance the feeling of a story and make a story stick.
The work from Rob Hornstra, The Sochi Project; is a dynamic mix of documentary photography, film and reportage about the obscure and impoverished area around Sochi in Russia where the Olympic Winter Games are held in 2014. In his images Hornstra weaves a fascinating trip through the lives of especially the young who live in the smaller towns that suffer from a lack of jobs and, seemingly endless months of boredom. Hornstra's photography seduces with its use of bright evenly lit strobe and cleanliness of description. Hornstra barely, but nevertheless directs his subjects, as a result of which he creates genuine impressions of their lives and fate.
In 2010 Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen visited for the second time the refugees from Abkhazia in different cities across Georgia. In 2007 both interviewd Georgians in the refugee centre in Tbilisi. Georgians who had fled from Abkhazia during the war in 1992-1993. Three years after, Hornstra and Van Bruggen note that 'all hope is gone'. It was distressing to see that the situation had not improved for any of them. Yet with Hornstra ‘s use of clear light and clever composition, Hornstra has captured their spirit that seems to be strong despite their hardships. This way the true story is not only a fatal one, but a story of survival, and true character.
In the series How Terry likes his coffee (2010), Florian van Roekel manages to expose with the comforting thread of familiar images the minutiae of office life. Instead of directing, Van Roekel meticulously records truthfully his subjects, conveying the feel of fiction. Through his use of simple close-ups and lighting he conveys the feel of projecting stills from a film-reel which calls into question somewhat the real value and role of documentary photography itself.
For this series Van Roekel photographed five different offices in The Netherlands over a period of fourteen months. This resulted in nine different ‘series’, or chapters as Van Roekel calls them, of which six ‘chapters’ are published in this book.
In these six chapters cameos of office life are played out. It begins with a few white pages annotated with scribbling and aimless doodles. This is followed by images of what appear to be the aftermath of an office party, of some furniture and of grey suit jackets draped over the back of office chairs, flapping slightly. There are more images of workers sat at steel desks photographed from behind as well as close-ups of employees on the telephone. Pictures of the office garden feature in the final chapter: that architectural landscape which is the concession urbanity pays to nature.
We are invited to speculate on a possible office romance between two colleagues, ponder the anxiety over an ink stain on the shirt sleeve of an office manager and contemplate the crushing of our own social skills by the professionalization of our own work environment. We are also invited to broaden this introspection to incorporate wider social concerns such as that we have become overly self-conscious, cash-rich but time-poor and have even lost the art of face-to-face communication and basic human empathy.