If Donald Trump’s abrasive, stumbling approach toward North Korea will succeed in anything before possibly progressing into nuclear war, it will be in boosting the country’s tourism scene. Given the restrictions, regulations, fears, paranoias, truths and half-truths that surround North Korea, it is not exactly a hotspot for honeymooners or family vacations. But there are those who do visit, and the numbers will increase as the intrigue of the latest Communist threat to America’s ego is exacerbated beneath the limelight.
One such person who has visited North Korea and explored its eccentric government, is Matt Hulse. His photography collection, Sniper, which has recently won the Gold Award with the Felix Schoeller Photo Award, will attract plenty of attention. With his mobile phone and a cheap attachable lens, Hulse has produced a series of interesting shots from the hotel room he stayed in while in Korea. These images are, as if ready made for the current perception of the country, CIA-esque shots taken as though from the scope of a sniper rifle, from the top of a tower.
‘Contrary to popular opinion, you can take photographs in North Korea as long as they adhere to very strict regulations.’ Hulse then goes on to flout these strict regulations in his collection, creating an atmosphere of spy-work and snooping. Each of the shots is of a single pedestrian, who have no idea that they are being captured from the window of the hotel they just passed. ‘In the West we have this ingrained desire to exercise our freedom and break the boundaries a bit […] There was definitely a certain thrill in taking those images. I was continually thinking about what would happen if my subject was to turn around; the authorities would definitely have come to my room and questioned me.’
There is a fascination to be found in Hulse’s collection, one that is always present when parts of the globe that feel censored or isolated are captured by a camera lens, a paintbrush, a pen. One shot from Sniper, of a distant, lone figure, without identity and little form, is as if it had been taken on the Moon. The surrounding scenery is colourless and cracked, and for many, North Korea might as well be on the Moon, given how alien the nation can seem.
Featured Photo Credit: Matt Hulse