© AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

In June,  the Associated Press announced it had signed an agreement with North Korea’s state-run news agency to open an AP photo and text bureau in Pyongyang. The AP also noted that David Guttenfelder, AP’s Chief Asia Photographer, had already made several trips to North Korea this spring, photographing extensively in several parts of the country.

Guttenfelder’s photos of this secretive nation were published this week on The Atlantic web site and in The Independent, the UK paper. As the article in the British paper notes, “The pictures are among the most candid ever published in Western newspapers.”

In a country where the press is tightly controlled, Guttenfelder captured slices of daily life in a variety of settings: a university and a pool for its students, a library, an elementary school, a fast food restaurant, a subway station, a museum dedicated to the Korean war. Guttenfelder also photographed outside Kim Il Sung’s mausoleum, where tourists pose for photos. Some of his photos depict an eery quiet: an empty multi-lane highway leading to the Pyongyang airport, and a traffic cop standing in a Pyongyang street where there seems to be no traffic. His photos are often beautiful, capturing landscapes of color and sometimes startling clarity: as The Independent notes, the lack of industry means there’s little smog.


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