Eye Candy

In Focus: Winter Games at Summer Retreat

by Daniel Schwartz
The Adlerksy district public beach. About three million tourists visit Sochi each year. Photo: Maria Plotnikova

SOCHI, Russia – Before the staggering ski slopes, overpriced hotels, and grandiose stadiums, there was Sochi, the summer retreat of choice for ordinary Russians and leaders (Stalin, Putin) alike. 

Of course, with the Winter Games comes lots of media coverage. We wanted the before snapshot of the city nestled on the banks of the Black Sea and surrounded by the Caucasus Mountains. Over the summer, Moscow-based street photographer Maria Plotnikova traveled south for that exact reason and was kind enough to share her photo series with us. Here are her best picks.

Tell us about how you decided to travel down to Sochi.
The 2014 Winter Olympics pushed me to travel to Sochi this summer. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the city has been one of Russia's most popular summer resorts. In fact, Sochi is termed the unofficial summer capital of the country! I spent one week in July shooting from morning till night, capturing ordinary Russians doing what they traveled south to do: get some R&R.

What struck you most about the place and people?
I was aware before traveling to Sochi that the town had a very relaxed holiday vibe. Sochi attracts Russians from all regions of the country: Siberia, the Urals, even neighboring southern regions. They all come to this Black Sea resort to rest. I was amazed by how Russian tourists rest to the fullest — there are absolutely no limitations on relaxation.

I also noticed that most people in Sochi are very familiar with the culture of the Highlanders, the indigenous people of the northern Caucasus region.

What struck me the most, however, were the tremendous architectural changes to the city in preparation for the upcoming Olympics. Sochi is now a very modern city. I think following the Olympics, Sochi will be one of Russia's most attractive cities to live in.

How long you have been shooting for?
I've been shooting since 2002. Like most photography students, I started out snapping photos of landscapes and my friends.

What kind of camera do you use?
Ninety percent of the time I use a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. The other ten percent calls for a Canon 28mm 1.8 lens.

What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
Street photography is my favorite genre. I love catching ordinary, decisive moments in a passerby's day. From a technical perspective, every photo has a certain color and light harmony unique to the time and place it was taken. In my opinion, it captures the history of everyday life. My favorite subjects have always been daily life and personal relations.

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