Safety First, by photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen, is entirely composed of negatives which were damaged by x-ray scanners during our stay in Grozny. In the Chechen capital, these scanners are not only placed at the entrance to the airport or government buildings, but also to shops, gyms, restaurants and outside on squares. In Safety First we ask what the difference is between security and a false sense of security.
The photos in 'Safety First' were damaged by an X-ray scanner in Grozny on Wednesday, 5 January 2011. We had landed at Vladikavkaz Airport the night before. On the trip to Grozny, we stop at the monument commemorating the victims of the hostage crisis in Beslan. The next day, the full rolls of film are still in my bag. On our first morning in Grozny, we go to the ice rink opened in 2009. Or rather, two ice rinks: one for girls and one for boys. We are given permission to take photographs at both of them, although not all the parents are happy about the idea. In the afternoon, we come across a dilapidated apartment building. Our local assistant refuses to go inside. The building is inhabited by people who lost their homes during the previous war. They accuse the government of corruption and self-enrichment and feel utterly neglected. We then visit the main square, where President Ramzan Kadyrov has erected a giant Christmas tree and brought in 20 truckloads of snow to enhance the festive atmosphere over the Christmas holidays. The only reminder of the past is the amount of security and X-ray scanners. In the evening, we visit World War II veteran Akhmed Ustarkanov (88), who has fought in four wars and been married three times. At the end of our interview, he asks whether his cousins can be photographed with him. Back at the hotel, I exchange the full rolls of film in my photo bag with empty ones. Over the following days, my bag goes through many other X-ray scanners. These do not damage any of the films.
Rob Hornstra has featured on our website before with his portfolio 101 Billionaires, whilst both him and Arnold van Bruggen were featured with their work; The Sochi Project. Safety First is the first book in the new Sketchbook Series. By purchasing titles from this series, you are supporting The Sochi Project. And if you're interested in buying the book click here for more information.
All photos © Rob Hornstra/INSTITUTE. Courtesy Flatland Gallery