Photographer Takes a Series of Portraits of Regular North Koreans

Koryo Tours that specializes in tourism to North Korea and studying North Korean culture, released a movie about taking portraits of regular North Koreans.

In 2014, Koryo Tours and Slovenian photographer Matjaz Tancic obtained permission for taking photographs in North Korea. Although the group was allowed to shoot in several cities, they still had local guides who worked as their interpreters and explained what they are not allowed to capture.

Tancic photographed the workers at Chollima steelworks, farmers from Tongbong cooperative farm, the military in the demilitarized zone with South Korea, workers at the food factory in Pyongyang, students at Wonsan Agricultural University, people from Hungnam industrial city, athletes, passersby, and other North Koreans.

All participants knew that they were being photographed for the project that will be seen outside the country. Most of them reacted well to the camera, but some, such as the student or the soldier, were noticeably nervous. The latter was so uncomfortable that he refused to pose for any more pictures after a couple of them were taken.

Tancic explained that North Korea is often either demonized, or shown as a very miserable country in the media. And in both cases, the media leave out the ordinary people.

The guides have asked Tancic to photograph people at the restored library, new maternity hospital, or a museum several times. But the photographer tried to explain them that he prefers to photograph regular people in the streets. Tancic said that at first the guides did not understand what he wants from them. Several times they prohibited him to take pictures: once in the DMZ, and another time a the wedding of a military officer in Pyongyang.

Tancic’s 3D photographs were displayed in Pyongyang in 2015. This was the first exhibition in North Korea that was curated by foreigners. Below are some photographs from the video, as well as 3D versions of some of the photographs.

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