Daily life for the citizens of North Korea, a notoriously secretive, closed society, is as mysterious to most as the goings on at the bottom of the ocean. We hear stories of famine, human rights abuses and extreme corruption, but given the country’s mistrust of outsiders, details are few and far between.
Recently, Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder has taken a bold step towards giving the West a glimpse at daily life in the socialist state by opening a news bureau in Pyongyang this past January. Not only does Guttenfelder have unprecedented access to the country, he has begun acting as an informal ambassador on behalf of the West.
A new show at The 8th Floor gallery in New York City, billed as “A Joint Exhibition by The Associated Press and the Korean Central News Agency,” displays some of Guttenfelder’s photos alongside images provided by the North Korean state media service. While the photojournalist’s images are somewhat restrained compared to others that have emerged from North Korea recently, alongside the super-glossy shots provided by the state, the exhibit tells another story — of the beginning of a relationship between the secretive regime and the West.
In a story on the New York Times‘ website, Santiago Lyon, the AP’s director of photography, describes it as a “trust-building exercise.” “Of course, the nature of the society means that you can’t just go wandering around as you might be able to on the streets of New Delhi or London. You ask for permission, you get to see certain things and you do the best with the access you have. On that front, we’re making progress.”