Thursday, 6 February 2020

Showcase city

Photobooks titled Inside Korea really mean Inside Pyongyang, for a photographer to wander around the rest of the country would be rather unusual. As the city was significantly destroyed during the Korean War it provided an ideal opportunity for the authoritarian leaders to create a showpiece city and this what the photos in the book reveal. The various photographers have minders suggesting what to photograph and the best angle (to avoid including anything in the shot that would look too negative). Of course the result of this interference means that the city looks very antiseptic and lifeless, devoid of any hustle and bustle of a typical city.

The six chapters: City views and housing; Monuments; Museums; Sport; Leisure; Pyongyang Metro offer a good exterior overview of the city and as with other books I've seen the Metro is usually the last chapter. The many high rise housing blocks look impressive from the outside but missing are any photos of what kitchens, sitting rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms actually look like. In the rest of the book there are some interiors but they look very lifeless and posed.

These photo of Pyongyang make the place look quite impressive and it provides living quarters for most of its citizens who are civil servants and in the military, unlike the rest of the countrie's population who have to live and work in much less opulent surroundings.

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