A photojournalist who smuggled photographs out of North Korea has says there is more to the country than meets the eye, but his unsanctioned photography has left him banned from ever returning.
The photographs by Gavin John show North Koreans going about their everyday lives, and were taken on a trip back in 2014. One image shows a woman sitting outside a store front but there was only an empty building inside. Other shots show people waiting at bus stops, reading train timetables and taking a stroll through a public park.
The pictures were taken in Pyongyang, North Korea by the 31-year-old freelance photojournalist from Calgary, Canada.
“North Korea has always been an enigma to me and the rest of the world,” he said.
“It’s openly hostile government, combined with an unparalleled secrecy, and a legacy of misinformation, all screamed for me to experience it myself and see how true or not these claims were. I’ve always felt there’s more to the eye than what’s been presented.”
He said that going to North Korea is like stepping back in time, likening it to the Soviet Union in the 1970s. He said the clothing, cars and architecture were from a “bygone era”.
“Propaganda posters of glorious battles were in the places where advertising would be, and large flowing flags of North Korea hung off every street corner and building.
“However, I found everyday North Koreans a kind and gentle people where curiosity was the prominent reaction to my presence there. I tried to focus my images on these people, their interactions with each other and myself.”
He noted that as he took his photographs, “every now and then there were indications that there was, in fact, something not right. Glimpses of empty buildings behind a fake storefront or restaurants suddenly full of people mid-meal when minutes before were empty tables.”
Mr John hopes his pictures can show that ordinary North Koreans are no different to anyone else. “We’re all guilty of our own preconceptions of North Korea, and much of it is false,” he added.
If you are inspired by the thought of a trip to the country, here’s what you need to know before you visiting North Korea.
(Media Drum World)