The Independent has a remarkable slideshow of photos of North Korea by David McNeill here. They are definitely worth a look, and raise a few obvious questions and one, not so obvious, question:
Obvious: 1) Where is everybody? Many of these pictures were taken in Pyongyang, the capital, which has a population of 3.3 million. OK, it’s not London, but you’d expect a few more to be using the tube wouldn’t you? Or using the municipal swimming pool?
2) Picture 1: where is all the food?
There are some obvious points to be made here, almost all of which have been lost on the brain-dead trolls commenting on the Indy site: McNeill was working in a closed, ideological and totalitarian society; working within that society, and to be able to get his work out, required great ingenuity and artistic imagination to make his point; that he makes his point in images which are precise, technically brilliant (from the point of view of framing, composition, focus and that boring camera stuff).
And what is the not-so-obvious point about North Korea that McNeill so brilliantly captures in these images that he managed to get them past the all-censoring eyes of the Dear Leader’s flunkeys? Think of the famous Sherlock Homes story “Silver Blaze” – the one about the stolen race horse and the dog who didn’t bark in the night. Look at these photos and see the dog not barking. In other words, the things that are not there: not because they were airbrushed out or the Dear Leader didn’t want them depicted, but because they just weren’t there in the first place and never have been, nor are likely to be. They are likely to be the sort of things you take for granted to the extent that you don’t see them, even though they’re there before your eyes everyday.
Take that first photo: we’ve all seen fallow fields, but when was the last time when you ever passed a scene like that in the English countryside? Just one field among many that are producing something and the others…
I hope these wonderful photos are published in print with the space they deserve.
While the tabloid press here continues to rake over the dead embers of England’s (un)shock departure from something called the World Cup, they could learn a thing or two from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or Democratic Korean People of Republic or whatever the sod it’s called, under the wise and benevolent leadership of the Great Leader, Kim Jong Il.
Yes, they may have gone down 7-0 to Portugal, but hey-ho (or as they say, 빌어먹을), life goes on…
PS: Michael Caine fought in the Korean War. However, I think it unfair to blame him directly for Kim Il Sung.