North Korea's Big Show
National Geographic Magazine India|May 2020
THE REGIME PUTS ON SPECTACULAR PAGEANTS WITH CASTS OF THOUSANDS. A PHOTOGRAPHER LEARNS TO LOOK BEYOND THEM.
DAVID GUTTENFELDER

EVEN BY NORTH KOREAN STANDARDS, the final event of the country’s 70th-anniversary celebration in 2018 was a jaw-dropping spectacle. Many thousands of torch-wielding students marched in waves around Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square. The electric flame on top of Juche Tower glowed while the sound of the students’ chants and the fireworks’ explosions echoed across the immense plaza.

These mass displays have happened often over the 20 years I’ve spent covering North Korea. I photograph them not only because they’re very visual but also because they offer a way to understand the image that the regime wants to project to the world. They present an idealized version of the country—sanitized, curated, united, strong.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE INDIAView All

A YEAR ON THE EDGE

A DEADLY VIRUS. LIVES IN LOCKDOWN. PASSIONATE CALLS FOR JUSTICE. THE IMAGES OF 2020 CAPTURED THE HUMANITY OF A TURBULENT TIME.

10+ mins read
National Geographic Magazine India
January 2021

Celebrating in the Pandemic

WE’RE MISSING HOLIDAY CLOSENESS JUST WHEN WE NEED IT MOST. BUT EVEN GRIM, UNCERTAIN TIMES HOLD SPARKS OF LOVE AND LIGHT.

7 mins read
National Geographic Magazine India
December 2020

THE BACKSTORY

PUTTING ARTIFICIAL LIGHT IN A NATURAL ENVIRONMENT ADDS AN ILLUMINATING KIND OF AWE.

1 min read
National Geographic Magazine India
September 2020

ERIKA CUÉLLAR SOTO

She helps Indigenous people protect the ‘magic’ of their lands. When Bolivian conservation biologist Erika Cuéllar Soto saw the sunrise over the Gran Chaco for the first time, in 1997, she knew she was somewhere special.

1 min read
National Geographic Magazine India
September 2020

The Celebrity At The Zoo

Almost everybody loves Pandas. After a year documenting a newborn cub, a photographer remembers when she did too.

4 mins read
National Geographic Magazine India
September 2020

The Cost Of Harming Nature

The pandemic proves it: By damaging the planet, we have sapped nature’s power to protect us from diseases.

6 mins read
National Geographic Magazine India
September 2020

Meet The Machines In Our Future

Humankind has a complicated relationship with robots. On one hand, we appreciate how they can do dangerous, repetitive work so we don’t have to.

2 mins read
National Geographic Magazine India
September 2020

When Virtual Life Turns Into Quarantine

MY GENERATION THRIVES IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD. BUT WHEN COVID-19 CUT US OFF FROM THE PHYSICAL WORLD, SOMETHING WAS LOST

6 mins read
National Geographic Magazine India
August 2020

What We Don't Learn From History

IT’S APPARENTLY humankind’s fate never to stop writing the history of pandemics. No matter how often they occur—and they do occur with great frequency—we collectively refuse to think about them until circumstances demand it.

1 min read
National Geographic Magazine India
August 2020

WATER EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE

A 2,400-MILE TREK ACROSS INDIA REVEALS THE MYSTICAL LURE OF ITS SACRED RIVERS—ANDA CRISIS THAT THREATENS A WAY OF LIFE.

10+ mins read
National Geographic Magazine India
August 2020