By Daniel Schwartz for Fathom | SOCHI, Russia – Before the staggering ski slopes, overpriced hotels, and grandiose stadiums, there was Sochi, thesummer 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.
The Adlerksy district public beach. About three million tourists visit Sochi each year. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
Visitors grabbing lunch at an outdoor cafe on the seafront in Adler, the main resort district of Sochi. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
Because of preparation for the Olympic games, many parts of the city are under construction. This doesn't stop tourists from taking photos amongst the palm trees. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
A tourist caught posing in the Sochi Aquarium. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
This portrait of Lenin is situated near the city's oldest amusement park, The Riviera, a favorite meeting place for residents and tourists in Sochi. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
Near the Adlersky public beach, a tourist undergoing traditional hydro massage therapy. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
One of the most popular excursions in Sochi is called "33 Waterfalls." Tourists are tasting some Caucasian homemade wines. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
Six months before the opening of the Olympic Games, there are still many unfinished projects, including roads, hotels, and the Adler seafront. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
Guest workers playing volleyball along the backdrop of one of the Olympic stadiums. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
After relaxing on the beach, tourists can take several tours to the Sochi National Park and the Caucasus Nature Reserve. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
An excited tourist taking in local mountain man culture at a Caucasian folklore show. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
Nightlife in Sochi mainly consists of nightclub hopping and local concerts. Heavily drunk tourists are caught fighting on the streets after a rowdy night on the town. Photo: Maria Plotnikova
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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