Above the Line: People and Places in the DPRK (North Korea) was unveiled todayat the British Council’s headquarters in London and will run until 25 July. Comprising 80 large-scale colour photographs by the acclaimed photojournalist Nick Danziger, the exhibition sets out to provide a view of the people and the country with the aim of informing future discussion about this isolated state.
The exhibition shows people doing ordinary things – women bathing in the sea, a man waiting at a tram stop, students walking down the street – as well as less ordinary sights such as a much-decorated hero of the Korean War on his way to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in his Mercedes; dancers practising in the car park before a performance at the Arirang Games; and a glimpse into the routines of workers on a collective farm. Debate about North Korea often centres around the idea of it as an abstract, geopolitical entity – a land of incomprehensible systems and beliefs. Danziger’s photos show another side to the story. Visiting the cities of Pyongyang, Wonsan, Nampo and Sariwon, he focuses on individuals, so that a picture emerges of people whose pleasures are not all that different from people elsewhere, however bizarre and limiting their circumstances appear to us.
The exhibition is accompanied by a full-colour catalogue with an expanded selection of photographs, and profiles of 12 individuals by the writer Rory Maclean. Notes on the 150 photographs provide commentary on life and culture in North Korea, and include translations of all the Korean text seen in the images.
The exhibition was commissioned by the British Council as part of a programme to increase people-to-people dialogue between the UK and North Korea. Nick Danziger, Rory MacLean, and Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council, travelled to North Korea at the invitation of the DPRK authorities in August 2013 and, while accompanied by officials, were given exceptional access to individuals and places.
Andrea Rose says: ‘North Korea invariably arouses strong reactions. Few foreigners can visit the country, and few North Koreans can travel abroad. Gaining greater knowledge on either side can only be of value in beginning the dialogue between people.’
Guided tours of the exhibition will take place on Fridays at 1pm.