Invited to document North Korea in 3D, Slovenian photographer Matjaž Tančič wanted to show something of the people who live there, stripped of rhetoric. Choosing to take portraits of people in North Korea invites controversy, criticism and significant challenges. In the eyes of the Western world North Korea is one of the few countries where photographic voyeurism is celebrated. Working within the rules of the North Korean regime invites accusation of being naïve or, worse, a ‘useful idiot’ of taking on the work of a complex and powerful propaganda machine.
North Korea is one of the most restrictive societies on Earth; all visitors to the country must be invited, and all are required to travel with guides representing the organization that invited them. There have been multiple instances in the past of ‘tourists’ repackaging and selling their images to the global press. In North Korea there is an inherent distrust of Western photographers. Capturing a ‘rare glimpse’ of a North Korean person, photographed at speed from a moving bus, or through a doorway, taps into our colonial desire to be the ‘first’ to see something, and in doing so successfully captures the interest of a Western audience. The ‘rare glimpse’ has become so oxymoronically common, we can now call it a trope of North Korean photography. But forgotten, or dismissed, in this never-ending quest for unseen images in our over-stimulated modern world, are the subjects of these ‘rare glimpses’: the North Korean people whose images have been captured.
This specific nature of the 3D technique he used required introduction and demonstration and encouraged interest and exchange between photographer and subject. This exchange, facilitated by our guides, translators and interested onlookers allowed us to bypass, somewhat, the more commonly experienced relationship between western photographers in North Korea and those that they photograph, typified by a lack of direct interaction and explanation of intent and purpose.
Among the more than 100 portraits we captured, there is a boxing champion learning to ice skate, a photographer in forest, a worker in and iconic steel complex and an international worker with the Red Cross. These are the people we met in North Korea, and who we present in 3D.
About the book:
Size：195 × 155 × 65 mm
64 Pages, Hardcover with silk-screen printing
with 3D glasses, 64 pieces of 3D cards, 5 pieces of 3D postcards and introduction booklet inside
First edition of 1000
Published in November 2016
What really keeps time – clocks or memories? »Timekeeper« is a series of 3D photographs by Matjaž Tančič, inspired by the set up of Hui-style living rooms in the old village houses of Yixian. As one enters these dwellings, the eye is again and again greeted by the same sight: a small altar comprised of a clock, two vases and a mirror.
Why were these altars created? What do they signify? In Chinese, the Zhong Sheng Ping Jing (clock, vases, mirror) has the same pronounciation as lifelong tranquility. But what at first glance gives the impression of sacred artifacts and hints at an exciting tradition, is later revealed to be only objects to the majority of today’s villagers. Just a clock, two vases and a mirror. The young have all but forgotten the original purpose of their house altars, just as old traditions and ancestral values slowly but surely fade away.
The »timekeepers« now tell a new story – a story of today. The old clock may be replaced or even lost, but then perhaps another object will take its place, transforming the altar into a reflection of the household. Photo albums, medicines, wrist watches, toys or food are now all part of the set up and tell the story of the altar’s current owners – farmers, tea growers, retired teachers and artists. Individuals from several different villages are featured in the photos with an altar of clock, two vases and a mirror. The 3D technique lets the spectator get closer and experience the story more intimately.
As the altars changed, so have the villages. They are way past their prime, the young people desiring the hustle and bustle of the city. Trade has also found new home in large urban areas, turning the once wealthy village merchants into a mere memory. What remains are their luxurious houses that have now seen centuries, and in them – small altars that keep old memories and tell new stories. Timekeepers.
Published by JZZP
Size／210 x 148 x 20mm
64 pages, paperbound, Hardcover, with a box
First Edition: 400，published in May 2015