Photographer David Guttenfelder documents North Korea—using Instagram


posted Monday, November 18, 2013 at 2:20 PM EDT


While North Korea is still probably the most strictly controlled and authoritarian nation in the world, it is slowly starting to open its borders. More images are starting to leave the country -- and thanks to the recent rollout of 3G in the isolated nation, photos are now leaving via another route: Instagram. David Guttenfelder is a photographer with the Associated Press who has worked extensively in North Korea, and is now putting up his images over his Instagram feed.

Talking to Wired, Guttenfelder explained how the new cellphone network has allowed him to share more of the reclusive nation with the outside world. By using tools like Foursquare or Instagram, he's opening up small parts of the country in a new way — and one that seems less censored than others. As he explains:

Through social media, I’m trying to piece together a picture of this country for the outside world, whether it’s a still of an apartment building with an empty playground, a geo-tag for Juche Tower on Foursquare, or a video of a woman ringing up restaurant receipts with propaganda blaring behind her.

No one puts their hand in front of my camera, and no one tells me not to shoot things. There’s no review process. They don’t look at my pictures at all before I send them on the Associated Press wire or my Instagram account. Facebook even asks me to tag my “friends” Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung when I upload my photos.

It's not clear if this lack of review is due to an overall opening up of North Korea to the outside, or just that they don't quite understand how social media works. But it's intriguing to see these images stream out of such a secretive place.