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Take A Peek Inside North Korea With These Illegal Polaroid Photos

Take A Peek Inside North Korea With These Illegal Polaroid Photos image

Take A Peek Inside North Korea With These Illegal Polaroid Photos

Eric Lafforgue's photos provide a fascinating peek inside North Korea, a country that doesn't officially allow outside photography.

Taken during an official tourist trip, these Polaroids were the perfect icebreaker. People loved seeing their faces appear in the developing film. And after the photos were taken, Lafforgue's subjects would often open up and tell stories.

"I first went to North Korea in 2008," says Lafforgue. "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."

I discovered this camera was the best way to make contacts with locals and to break the ice.

"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."

"Every time I was taking a polaroid, I was taken another one 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."

Find more of Lafforgue's North Korea photos here. He took his camera to North Korea six times before being banned by the government.


"I had the chance to meet some triplets in Nampho orphanage. There are a lot of twins and triplets in orphanages. The official reason is that parents cannot afford to raise 2 or 3 kids at same time. Some say that they represent a kind of magic for the Leaders and that the parents do not have the choice to keep them at home. I took a polaroid of the triplets and asked the orphanage director to give the picture to the parents, but I understood they were living very far away and that there were few chances they could receive the picture of their children."


"Miss Kim, she was a perfect French speaking guide at the War Museum. I met her 5 times during my trips, she kept on telling me she learned French in Pyongyang university. In fact, I learned later that she spent her childhood in Algeria where her father was a diplomat. But for the propaganda it was better to say that you can learn perfect French in North Korea!"


"Her job is to sell some flowers that the visitors, including the tourists, will lay in front of the Leaders' statues in Mansudae hill in Pyongyang. 3 euros the flowers. As soon as you put the flowers on the monument, an old lady comes, take the flowers, and resells them!"


"Every new couple comes to Mansudea hill to pay respect to the dear Leaders' statues in Pyongyang on the day of their wedding. By looking at their face, this does not look like a happy time! They are very serious. The guide told me that they were moved to visit the statue of the Leader. But after seeing their faces on Polaroids, they started to smile and even laugh, forgetting the etiquette!"


"On a Sunday afternoon, on the Taedong river in Pyongyang, the North Koreans come to have a BBQ or a picnic, a very different atmosphere, with lots of Soju (rice alcohol) and lots of smiles."


"In Pyongyang, I took the polaroids of the girls working at a restaurant, then the owner came and asked for one, in English! She was the wife of a high rank North Korean diplomat. She had lived in NYC for 2 years. She found the Americans very fat but nice people. She became very talkative as she was so happy with her picture."


"Guards inside the subway taking care of the arrivals and departures of the wagons. Usually, they act like little robots, for the Polaroids they become humans!"


"In the countryside: bikes and farms. No cars, nothing else."


"A picture taken in the countryside, as in Pyongyang, depending on the mood of the Leaders, riding a bike is not possible for women, not aesthetic. In the countryside, there is no choice to move from one point to another…"


"When visiting some houses, I asked the people where they wanted to stand for the picture, everybody answered: "Below the dear Leaders' portraits". Once, I had to do the Polaroid again as the Leaders portraits were cut. Unacceptable."


Via Bored Panda

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