Truthfulness is what one expects from photographs about North Korea. However, there are
many truths in North Korea: not in the murky post-modern sense that there are no facts to
be shown, but because of the severe limitations on what one is, literally and prosaically,
allowed to see. So, how can representations of grandiose decoys, representations whose
very angle seems constrained by secretive officialdom, fulfill our longing for a glance at the
horrors of a totalitarian regime? Shouldn’t we rather prefer a furtive glimpse of the terror
unfolding behind the scenes?
We should not. Catching from the corner of the eye the sight of what might be a
hungry child isn’t necessary to understand the madness of the regime. 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. We don’t need to be told that the
cooperative shop isn’t available to a starving population: 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 genuinely Orwellian fear.
Social psychologists recently found that Western educated people tend to
underestimate the extent to which they are influenced by irrational conspiracy theories.
Propaganda works insidiously, or else it would be useless. So, if at first you only feel
slightly amused, if it takes you a while to understand what it means for a country to display
this, it’s all right. This is what these photos are for.
West Pyongyang view.
Kim Il Sung Square. This is Pyongyang’s most important square and a common gathering place for rallies, dances and military parades. The white dots on the ground are positioning marks.
Entrance door of the demilitarized zone in the former village of Panmunjom where the armistice of the Korean war was signed between Korea and the United nations. The mosaic symbolize North Korean’s will of reunification.
Street in Pyongyang displaying the teaching of Kim Il Sung.
Pyongyang’s ice rink.
Grand People Study House entrance hall. This is Pyongyang’s central library that was built to celebrate leader Kim Il-Sung’s 70th birthday. It has a total floor
space of 100 000m2 and 600 rooms.
Taedong river splitting Pyongyang city in west and east part with the Juche tower designed by Kim Jong Il that represents the ideology developed by Kim Il Sung.
Songdowon International Children’s Union Camp which receives teenagers and youth for cultural exchange between North Korea and various foreign countries.
World map mosaic in International Children’s Union Camp. The North Korean maps are always represented unified to symbolize the will of reunification.
Shop selling local products in a cooperative farm close to Hamhung.
Ulim Waterfall, the 2001 sign was made in memory of Kim Jong Il’s visit at that time and was sculpted to recreate his handwriting.
The Ryugyong Hotel with a height of 330 meters, is by far the largest structure in North Korea. The construction began in 1987 and is still ongoing.
Project by Maxime Delvaux