North Korea “Photographs by Philippe Chancel”
North Korea has been a nation apart for more than half a century ruled by father and son autocrats, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
The epitome of a rogue state, its two rulers have expanded the cult of personality to unprecedented lengths. Giant effigies of them stare out over the capital of Pyongyang and other cities. Massed ranks of people in stadiums flip cards to form huge pictures of their heads. No country or regime, past or present, has ever created an environment of such ubiquitous propaganda.
Philippe Chancels photographs show how the political has been transfigured into an all-encompassing aesthetic, a totalitarian vision for a totalitarian regime. Flags, murals and slogans praise the ruling Korean Workers Party, monuments, statues and portraits glorify its leaders. In Pyongyang, Chancel shows us the wide and car-less avenues, the Childrens Palace, the gigantic May Day Stadium, which seats up to 150,000 people and was used to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Kim Il-sungs birth.
Chancels infinitely precise style, neutral but sophisticated, creates a remarkable scenography of a uniquely chilling reality.
Philippe Chancel is a photographer who has worked in art and reportage for over twenty years. Michel Poivert is an art historian and teaches contemporary art at the Sorbonne. He has published several books on photography.
Jonathan Fenby, former editor of the South China Morning Post and The Observer, has written widely on the Far East.
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