Working in the DPRK

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

“ Within North Korea’s collective character, the individual is just a pixel . It’s exactly that pixel that I’m looking for and their significance within the city. ”

Having made four trips to Pyongyang over the last few years, Eddo Hartmann has created this refined project to portray the North Korean regime’s ambition to construct the ultimate socialist city while completely shaping the lives of its inhabitants after this ideal model.

After the total destruction of the capital during the Korean War (1950-1953), the government seized the opportunity to rebuild Pyongyang from the ground up and convert it into the perfect propaganda setting. The buildings were designed to provide all inhabitants with a utopian background for their everyday routine and immortalise the socialist revolution.

Eddo Hartmann is one of the few Western photographers who have been given the exceptional opportunity to record Pyongyang’s artificial architecture. In a series of evocative images, he has captured the forced and almost unrealistic character of the North Korean aspirations. In the process, he places an original focus on the individual.

The man with a camera

Since its invention, photography has been giving people the opportunity to look into the distant and inaccessible parts of the world. Even in today's global and highly transparent world, where people can cover large distances in a few hours, we learn a lot about life in other countries through the images and texts accompanying them. This is especially true for closed states, access to which is restricted or impossible for political reasons. In this case, the image is based solely on media coverage, often mythologizing and turning into a set of visual and verbal clichés. North Korea is perhaps the most vivid example of such mythology. Being isolated from the rest of the world, the country only seems to show its carefully retouched surface. A man with a camera in North Korea faces rigid control and regulations concerning what to shoot and how it should be shot. However, photography, which is able to capture a random moment, detect something not available to the unaided eyes and suddenly show "invisible" even in the carefully staged performance, remains the main research tool of the hidden reality.