Celebrated French photographer Eric Lafforgue has taken thousands of photos from different parts of the world, but his published unfiltered images of North Korea have been among his most captivating ones.
“I first went to North Korea in 2008,” Lafforgue recalled. “At this time, there were no mobile phones in the country, and the only pics people were taking were thanks to the official photographers who stood at the entrance of the main monuments to sell some photo souvenirs to visitors.”
He explained that the camera ultimately became something more for North Koreans as it allowed them to open up.
“I first thought about making Polaroids just as a kind of artistic work, to keep the dull colors of this country, but quickly I discovered this camera was the best way to make contacts with locals and to break the ice.”
The Polaroid camera gave him the opportunity to gain further access to the inner workings of the isolated nation. As he took photos of citizens and government officials going about their daily lives, he learned more about the society and its people.
“Every time I was taking a polaroid, I [took] another one [that] I offered to my North Korean ‘model’. So many times, this allowed me to see North Koreans in a very different way, and to start some conversations, through my guide, of course. Something that was not allowed in 2008.”
He would eventually return to the hermit kingdom several times after that. If Lafforgue was not banned in 2012 after his 6th trip, he probably would have captured more images.
“Life is brutal in many places of North Korea, far from the Western standard,” Lafforgue told News.com.au back in 2014. “Even with their hard life, they told me, with tears in their eyes, they venerate the dear leaders … even if sometimes they do not have a lot to eat.”
Here are some of his most brilliant images and the stories they tell:
Images and captions by Eric Lafforgue