North Korea 2014

CompanyWang Guofeng Studio
PhotographerWang Guofeng
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

These pictures showing the primary school and high school students in Pyongyang were taken by Wang Guofeng in April 2014. It is part of the North Korea photo/video series originated by Wang Guofeng since 2011. The large-format high definition pictures have rich information in detail, a documentary showing the original fantasy of the children.


An excerpt of North Korea diary (High school students in physics class) As scheduled by the government, we took the assigned van to the Pyongyong No.1 High School, arriving on time at 3pm, April 10, 2014. A smiling middle-age female teacher with the foreign affairs office of the school was already waiting for us. She dressed in a green uniform with badges of national leaders on the upper left of her chest. She led us to the lobby of the building, up in front was a grand drawing that General Kim Il Sung were surrounded by a number of children. The lady introduced the several visits that General Kim Il Sung paid to the school. At the same time, she asked us not to shoot at the drawing... The elevator was out of order. We climbed up the ladders to the fifth floor carrying heavy photography equipments. We were led to a computer class for photography before we came to the physics class, when all the students were divided into several teams, each concentrating on their own experiments, nobody seems to be aware of our visiting.I did not come up with a good photography idea at my first sight. We went around the classroom and took pictures of the students from different angles. It is not my objective of passively following the documentary photography. I kept thinking until I came to the podium, there I found the perfect angle of picturing. I immediately requested the students, via translator, to suspend their experient and look up to the camera. The request was immediately questioned by the accompanying teacher, who asked "why" and requested me to justify. l explained to them "I would not want to just make ordinary documentary photographs, I hope to highlight the spirit of North Korean youth via their eyes and facial expression..." The request was finally permitted. We immediately set up the lighting and the equipments, slightly changed the seating of the students to ensure all are on the picture. Finally, after all these efforts, I clicked the shutter, captured the poetic moment of original science fantasy.

About Photographer

Mr. Wang Guofeng, born 1967 in Liaoning province, northeast of China, is an independent artist known for large-format, sharp and rich in detail color photographs distinctive for their critical look at the effect of socialism and its ideology on the lives of individuals in the socialist or former socialist countries. He started his art career as a painter in 1990s, after studying Chinese painting at Inner Mongolia Normal University and Central Academy of Fine Arts. He started employing photography as a primary medium to visualize the art perception and sociality since 2002 and developed his method of conceptual serial photography. His earlier photography, in the form of huge panoramic color photographs, captures the 20th century mainstream splendid, huge and emblematical political buildings in China, Former Soviet Union region and North Korea, or the socialist or former socialist countries. These buildings represent the political system of the state and the collective unconsciousness under the highly centralized power, while individuals were tiny or subsumed by the grand architecture. In 2011, Mr. Wang Guofeng initiated his North Korea project and visited the country for four times ever since. In his large-scale high definition color photographs, Mr. Wang Guofeng captures the panorama of the society with rich information in detail. His lens covers the grand political buildings, the mass political gatherings, schools, factories, hospital, and families of different social status. Drawing influence of the scale and composition from his schooling of Chinese painting, Wang Guofeng found his contemporary way of photography. He perfectly processed these photographs in high definition pictures with all the symbolic codes and visual details in order to make the audience to read the implied spirit and sociality. He adopted high pixel digital camera to capture the objects and changed the points of sight until he finds a view locally, shot on the objects in a short and long distance with different focal lengths, encompassing both the center and the periphery. The huge dimension of the images and the later-stage digital manipulation further enhance the visual shock. All of Wang Guofeng’s pictures create a sense of impersonality, detachment and dispassionate, which challenge and even overturn the stereotyped attitudes and concepts of the viewers. Mr. Wang Guofeng has exhibited widely since 1999, including "The 2nd Seoul International Media Art Biennale" at the Seoul Museum of Art (2002), "When Latitudes Becomes Forms: Art in a Global Age" at Walker Art Center, US (2002), "The 6th Shanghai Biennale" Shanghai Art Museum (2006), "2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art" (2007) and “Aura & Post Aura” 1st Beijing Photo Biennial (2013). His solo exhibitions were held in Moscow (2007), South Korea (2010) and Hong Kong (2013).