North Korea Is Frighteningly Boring

By Christian Storm

Last November, Maxime Delvaux went to North Korea, which isn't easy for a photographer. He entered as a tourist with a permanent guide and driver. Like most visitors to the hermit kingdom, he was only allowed to see approved sites. The tour, and others like it, are basically propaganda to convince outsiders of North Korea's stability, civility, power, and grandeur. The resulting images document this eerie sterility. The viewer can sense that there are unpleasant things going on behind the monumental closed doors.

In an introductory piece about the photos, Mikhail Kissine writes, "The few people in the surrounding emptiness give the scale of the buildings; the sober explanations, provided by the regime itself, give the scale of the folly... One should be scared of a regime that builds to fool visitors. What Maxime Delvaux’s photos show is very real. Sufficiently real, indeed, to gently distillate a disturbing feeling, where the nauseating vertigo of some of the Borge’s Fictions mixes up with a genuine Orwellian fear." Maxime's pictures, while peaceful and unshocking, get under your skin and hint at the true nature of the country. If such a visit is so highly controlled, what messed up stuff goes on when visitors aren't there?

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