David Guttenfelder’s remarkable photos of real life in North Korea

David Guttenfelder - North Korea
A view of central Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder’s work in North Korea

Photographer David Guttenfelder, the chief Asia photographer for The Associated Press, took on North Korea after spending seven years taking photos in Afghanistan. He was granted more access than other photographers and could travel around more freely. His recent photos (2011) from North Korea cover something else than the Arirang Festival1, which has been already shown by Andreas Gursky, Noh Suntag and many after them. Certainly most images of Guttenfelder staged in a larger context but they are still remarkable.

Portrait of David Guttenfelder
Portrait of David Guttenfelder

Video

Photojournalist David Guttenfelder offers a glimpse inside North Korea’s tightly controlled society, where the truth is rarely simple.

11min 31sec

Photos: Life in Pyongyang

David Guttenfelder - A North Korean choir sings during a concert in Pyongyang on Monday April 16, 2012 to commemorate 100 years since the birth of Kim Il Sung
David Guttenfelder – A North Korean choir sings during a concert in Pyongyang on Monday April 16, 2012 to commemorate 100 years since the birth of Kim Il Sung

A North Korean teacher holds open a children's pop-up book, which depicts a U.S. soldier killing a Korean woman with a hatchet, in a library room at Kaeson Kindergarten in central Pyongyang on Saturday, March 9, 2013. For North Koreans, the systematic indoctrination of anti-Americanism starts as early as kindergarten.
David Guttenfelder – A North Korean teacher holds open a children’s pop-up book, which depicts a U.S. soldier killing a Korean woman with a hatchet, in a library room at Kaeson Kindergarten in central Pyongyang on Saturday, March 9, 2013. For North Koreans, the systematic indoctrination of anti-Americanism starts as early as kindergarten.

David Guttenfelder - A North Korean soldier stands against a complex of high rise apartment buildings in the Mansudae district downtown Pyongyang on July 21, 2013. The country is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War
David Guttenfelder – A North Korean soldier stands against a complex of high rise apartment buildings in the Mansudae district downtown Pyongyang on July 21, 2013. The country is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War

David Guttenfelder - A North Korean soldier guarding the entrance to Pyongyang's Kumsusan mausoleum, where the bodies of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie embalmed, looks back through the doors of the main gate Monday, April 15, 2013
David Guttenfelder – A North Korean soldier guarding the entrance to Pyongyang’s Kumsusan mausoleum, where the bodies of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie embalmed, looks back through the doors of the main gate Monday, April 15, 2013

David Guttenfelder – Children look through a subway car window in Pyongyang, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – Children look through a subway car window in Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder – A girl plays the piano inside the Changgwang Elementary School, in Pyongyang, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – A girl plays the piano inside the Changgwang Elementary School, in Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder – A statue known as the Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification, which symbolizes the hope for eventual reunification of the two Koreas, arches over a highway at the edge of Pyongyang, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – A statue known as the Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification, which symbolizes the hope for eventual reunification of the two Koreas, arches over a highway at the edge of Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder - Pyongyang metro
David Guttenfelder – Commuters walk through a subway station in Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder - Unha 2
David Guttenfelder – A video shows the liftoff of the North Korean Unha-2 rocket to launch the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite into space, on a screen inside a hall at the Three Revolution Exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder – A shadow of the 170-meter (560-foot) Juche Tower is cast over the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – A shadow of the 170-meter (560-foot) Juche Tower is cast over the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea. The tall structure at top right is the Ryugyong Hotel, its exterior only recently completed, despite construction starting in 1987.

David Guttenfelder - This April 12, 2011 photo shows central Pyongyang, North Korea at dusk through a hotel room window
David Guttenfelder – This April 12, 2011 photo shows central Pyongyang, North Korea at dusk through a hotel room window

David Guttenfelder - In this April 13, 2011 photo, an illustration of a building project hangs in front of the construction project in progress in Pyongyang, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – In this April 13, 2011 photo, an illustration of a building project hangs in front of the construction project in progress in Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder - In this April 15, 2011 photo, a city tram carries passengers in Pyongyang, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – In this April 15, 2011 photo, a city tram carries passengers in Pyongyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder - In this April 13, 2011 photo, people work on library computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea is undergoing a digital revolution of sorts, even as it holds some of the strictest cyberspace policies in the world
David Guttenfelder – In this April 13, 2011 photo, people work on library computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea is undergoing a digital revolution of sorts, even as it holds some of the strictest cyberspace policies in the world

Photos: Arirang Mass Games, Pyongyang

David Guttenfelder - North Korean women twirl hoops during a debut of a new mass games event to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation
David Guttenfelder – North Korean women twirl hoops during a debut of a new mass games event to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation

David Guttenfelder - North Korean do cartwheels on the field of the May Day Stadium
David Guttenfelder – North Korean do cartwheels on the field of the May Day Stadium

David Guttenfelder - North Korean citizens use colored cards to create a giant mosaic depicting the city of Pyongyang
David Guttenfelder – North Korean citizens use colored cards to create a giant mosaic depicting the city of Pyongyang

David Guttenfelder - North Korean women gather around a globe with a unified Korean Peninsula depicted on the map on the field of the May Day Stadium
David Guttenfelder – North Korean women gather around a globe with a unified Korean Peninsula depicted on the map on the field of the May Day Stadium

Photos: Military parade

David Guttenfelder - North Korean airplanes fly over Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation
David Guttenfelder – North Korean airplanes fly over Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation

David Guttenfelder - North Korean media cover a mass military parade on Kim Il Sung Square
David Guttenfelder – North Korean media cover a mass military parade on Kim Il Sung Square

David Guttenfelder - North Korean military tanks drive at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang
David Guttenfelder – North Korean military tanks drive at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang

David Guttenfelder - North Korean military goose-step on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation
David Guttenfelder – North Korean military goose-step on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation

David Guttenfelder - North Korean military goose-step past the grandstand on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation
David Guttenfelder – North Korean military goose-step past the grandstand on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation

David Guttenfelder - North Korean civilians wave pink and red artificial flowers and chant "Kim Jong Un" on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation
David Guttenfelder – North Korean civilians wave pink and red artificial flowers and chant “Kim Jong Un” on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during a mass military parade to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation

Photos: Rest of North Korea

David Guttenfelder – Two female North Korean soldiers hold hands as they tour the birthplace of Kim Il Sung at Mangyongdae, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – Two female North Korean soldiers hold hands as they tour the birthplace of Kim Il Sung at Mangyongdae, North Korea.

David Guttenfelder – In this April 21, 2011 photo, men operate a manual rail car on tracks running along the West Sea barrage near Nampho, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – In this April 21, 2011 photo, men operate a manual rail car on tracks running along the West Sea barrage near Nampho, North Korea.

David Guttenfelder - View from the statue of Mother Kim Jong Suk- Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – View from the statue of Mother Kim Jong Suk- Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, North Korea

David Guttenfelder - In this April 19, 2011 photo, North Korean workers rebuild the roof of a structure at the Pohyon Temple at the foot of Mount Myohyang, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – In this April 19, 2011 photo, North Korean workers rebuild the roof of a structure at the Pohyon Temple at the foot of Mount Myohyang, North Korea

David Guttenfelder - In this April 21, 2011 photo, a woman sits at a small table selling snacks on the roadside along the West Sea Barrage near Nampho, North Korea
David Guttenfelder – In this April 21, 2011 photo, a woman sits at a small table selling snacks on the roadside along the West Sea Barrage near Nampho, North Korea

All images by David Guttenfelder/davidguttenfelder.com unless otherwise noted.

Related works

Related readings

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arirang_Festival
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