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In her North Korea – A Life between Propaganda and Reality series, Alice Wielinga links the documentary photographs she took in North Korea to the propaganda images produced by the government. Her pictures are part of the North Korean Perspectives exhibition, on display at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, up until October 4, 2015.

How did you get the idea for your series North Korea A Life between Propaganda and Reality?

I was fascinated by the country since travelling to South Korea in 2004. I met a girl of my age there, and she told me about the division between North and South Korea. The way she described the country as a big black hole on the world map where no one can go to, planted a seed of fascination in my mind. Later, while working on a project on illegal cock fighting in Cuba, the photographer Cris Toala Olivares, with whom I collaborated – showed me how to approach subjects that are difficult to access. The experience inspired me to fulfil my long-time wish to travel to North Korea.

Did you have the idea of doing a montage before you went to North Korea?

In my mind, I had the idea of creating work based on the visual language of Propaganda Art. And, indeed, I had the idea of using montage to do so. I’ve been doing montages since 2008. Before that, I only shot documentary photographs; but I often felt that the thoughts going through my mind were more fascinating than the documentary photographs I took. Hence I started using photo-montage. By using this technique I was able to tell the stories the way I wanted to.

What does this exhibition mean to you?

The curator Marc Prüst and the MoCP director Natasha Egan did a fantastic job of putting together these different perspectives of the country. The exhibition includes twelve different photographers from different nationalities and backgrounds. It presents journalistic photography and artistic interpretation. Images taken from social media, and 3D photographs.

Which work in the exhibition impressed you the most?

I love the work of Thomas van Houtryve. He managed to capture some great shots of daily life in North Korea. His images offer a rare glimpse into the country. In his pictures I recognize scenes like those I observed during my own 2500km-trip throughout the country.

North Korean Perspectives is the result of a collaboration between the independent curator, Marc Prüst, and the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Natasha Egan. A podium discussion with Marc Prüst and others guests, will be held on September 15, 2015, within the framework of the Expo Art Week.

Further information about the exhibition can be found at: www.mocp.org. Further information about the podium discussion can be found at: www.mocp.org/events.

Alice Wielinga

Born in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, in 1981, Wielinga studied at the AKV St. Joost – Academy of Art and Design Photography, with a focus on documentary photography. Her North Korea – A Life between Propaganda and Reality, received a recognition at the 2014 Recontres d’Arles portfolio review.

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