Intimate Perspectives on North Korea
Project info

I have recently completed a two-year documentary project on North Korea, and this is a selection of the many images collected over that time. Working within the constraints placed upon visitors there, the series seeks to offer a fair, honest and intimate portrayal of the country and its people.

The problem with much of the material we see on North Korea is that it is too Pyongyang-heavy, often by photographers who have been there only once. Yet the capital is not at all representative of the country at large; series fixated on Pyongyang are almost doomed to depict monumental architecture, the metro and parades, providing nothing new and minimal insight into what life in greater North Korea might really be like.

At the same time, certain photographers have been unable to resist emphasising their own 'heroics' in having 'smuggled' images out of Pyongyang, thus making the story as much about themselves. Yet the reality is that only images of soldiers/construction workers are deemed illegal, and one's camera is never checked when leaving the country.

All this has resulted in an often skewed and clichéd understanding of the place. Specifically for this reason, the images presented here were taken in all corners of the country, and just two are of Pyongyang.

Photography there is not easy, yet it is possible to see and experience a great deal. Over the course of many trips I have captured images that not only confirm some of the popular clichés - such as the near omnipresence of the Leaders - but also show a lesser-known and more intimate Korea.

There are so many levels to North Korea that to throw everything in with the politics, as much of the mainstream media do, is far too simplistic. It is hoped that even this small series digs a little deeper and will take the viewer on a short but interesting journey through the DPRK and open up some unexpected perspectives.