North Korea


An ingenious approach to personal portraiture in a country with a virtual embargo on the form


ISBN: 9782330120115 Category:


While undertaking this photographic investigation of North Korea, French photographer Stéphan Gladieu (born 1969) found himself under constant surveillance everywhere he went. Because of these constraints, he managed to invent an ingenious space of freedom. Gladieu created mirror-portraits of people he encountered and was hosted by, often full length, which require a face-on pose and a direct gaze. In this way, he managed to create a form similar to North Korea’s propaganda imagery, which made his approach more comprehensible and permissible to the authorities.

Fifty years after its foundation, North Korea endures a media portrayal of war, famine, nuclear programs and military parades. Indoors, people are required to display portraits of the regime’s founder, Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-Il. Family photos are not allowed; nor are personal portraits. Consequently, Gladieu’s work attains an almost historic act of intervention in the country’s visual politics.

Additional information

Weight 700 g
Dimensions 18.6 x 23.8 cm
Publisher name Actes Sud
Publication date 1 February 2021
Number of pages 160
Format Paperback / softback
Contributors Photographs by Stéphan Gladieu, Text by Patrick Maurus
Dimensions 18.6 x 23.8 cm
Weight 700 g


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Stéphan Gladieu started covering war & social issues, travelling across Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Asia before becoming increasingly interested in using portraiture to illustrate the human condition. He has photographed Saudi Princes, Princesses in Nepal, actors & directors behind the scenes at Cannes Film Festival, politicians, intellectuals, but also everyday people throughout the world.