North Korea has always been an enigma to me. Why has it never wobbled while other authoritarian regimes collapsed in the upheavals brought about by the fall of the Berlin Wall, modernity and social media? It has outlasted the communist bloc that guaranteed its political and economic stability; withstood international embargos aiming to strangle it; overcame successive economic, climate or food crises; and never experienced a massive uprising despite constant surveillance and repression. North Korean officials were baffled by my proposal to do individual portraits. My "revolutionary" approach ran against the grain of their collectivist culture. Why did they agree? A desire for openness, no doubt, but also, I think, because the idea of frontal poses, and rigorous framing, was familiar and understandable to them. Deliberately flirting with the conventions of the propaganda image, this device made me static, predictable and controllable.
Publication: North Korea, Actes Sud, 2020.
Prints by Initial Labo, Paris.
With support from the School Gallery, Paris.