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51 Secretly Taken Illegal Photos Of North Korea Reveal Its Residents’ True Way Of Life

Published 2 months ago

From careful selection processes to strict rules during the stay, North Korea doesn’t seem too welcoming for tourists. There’s also no surprise that the country that strives to maintain the image they’ve been creating themselves for decades now, keep an eye on what the visitors from abroad capture with their cameras. Travel photographer Eric Lafforgue, however, managed to outsmart the government officials, smuggle out some of the ‘forbidden’ pictures, and share them with the rest of the world.

From 2008 to 2012 the photographer has visited North Korea 6 times. “As soon as they were opening a new area to visit I tried to go and see it, documenting the place,” Lafforgue shared his enthusiasm for the country shrouded in mystery. Amongst the usual photos of the regime in North Korea, he also was able to capture thousands of ‘forbidden’ pictures that, thanks to digital memory cards, he was able to keep. “They didn’t allow me to take pictures of the police, the army, etc. But with a 300mm zoom lens and a seat in the back of the bus, I could take so many…” And so he did.

Soon, pictures of soldiers and locals going about their day-to-day lives started appearing in the media. North Korea didn’t let this slide – the government demanded for the pictures to be taken down. “I refused as I show all the aspects of North Korea: the good and the bad. Just like I do with any country I visit. I refused to make an exception for North Korea and they didn’t like this.” That is why in 2012 the photographer was forbidden from entering the country ever again.

While being the author of pictures that shouldn’t even exist is quite an achievement, Lafforgue says that getting to know the people living there is what really made it all worthwhile. “During homestay meals in the countryside, I could speak with the locals for hours, thanks to my guides. They told me so much about how they live, what they dream of, and so on. The main thing to know is that North Koreans are warm people, very curious about the visitors and very generous, even though most of them own nearly nothing.”

Scroll down to see the illegally taken pictures, and if you’re curious to see more of this Eric Lafforgue’s work, check out our other post about his traveling adventures here.

More info: | Instagram (h/t)

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#1 A Woman Standing In The Middle Of A Crowd Of Soldiers. This Picture Is Not Supposed To Be Taken As Officials Do Not Allow Army Pictures

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#2 When You Visit Families, The Guides Love It If You Take Pics To Show The World That Kids Have Computers. But When They See There Is No Electricity, Then They Ask You To Delete!

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#3 Soldiers Often Help On Local Farms

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#4 This Kind Of Picture Is Widespread In The West. The Caption Often Explains That North Koreans Eat Grass From The Park. The Guides Get Furious If You Take It

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#5 A Rare Example Of An Undisciplined Kid In North Korea. The Bus Was Driving In The Small Roads Of Samijyon In The North, When This Kid Stood In The Middle Of The Road

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#6 The Way You Dress Is Very Important In North Korea. In Town, You’ll Never Find Anybody Dressed Poorly. On This Day, Students Were Dancing In A Park. When I Asked To Take A Picture, The Girl Asked The Man To Straighten His Shirt

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#7 As Cars Have Become More Widespread In Pyongyang, The Peasants Are Still Getting Accustomed To Seeing Them. Kids Play In The Middle Of The Main Avenues Just Like Before When There Were No Cars In Sight

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#8 Perhaps The Most Ridiculous Prohibition I Faced: This Official Painter Was Working On A New Mural In Chilbo. I Took The Picture, And Everybody Started Yelling At Me. Since The Painting Was Unfinished, I Couldn’t Take The Picture

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#9 Pyongyang’s Subway System Is The Deepest In The World As It Doubles As A Bomb Shelter. Someone Saw Me Taking This Picture And Told Me To Delete It Since It Included The Tunnel

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#10 It Is Forbidden To Photograph Malnutrition

Image source: Eric Lafforgue

#11 Never Take A Picture Where You Can See People Doing Silly Things In Front Of The Kim Portraits

Image source: Eric Lafforgue


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