Tag Archives: Kim Jong Il

A Year of Photographers in the Picture

A little shy of a year agowith the world’s attention focused on a change of power in North Koreaa photo of Kim Jung Il’s funeral, released by KCNA (North Korean Central News Agency), sparked controversy. The image had been manipulatedless for overt political ends, more for visual harmony. Blog Submission . The photo’s offending elements, photoshopped from the image, were not political adversaries or top secret information, but a group of photographers who had disturbed the aesthetic order of the highly orchestrated and meticulously planned occasion.

KCNA/Reuters

Dec. 28, 2011. A limousine carrying a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il leads his funeral procession in Pyongyang.

In an age where seemingly every occasion is documented through photography from every conceivable anglean estimated 380 billion photographs will be taken this year aloneit’s not only North Korean bureaucrats who are wrestling to keep hoards of other photographers out of their pictures.

Photographers frequently appear in news photographs made by others. Banks of cameras greet celebrities and public figures at every event; cell phones held high by admirers become a tribute in lights, but a distraction to the viewer. Amateurs and professionals, alike, appear in backgrounds and in foregrounds of images made at both orchestrated events and in more candid moments. squido lense . The once-invisible professional photographer’s process has been laid bare.

On occasion, photographers even purposefully make their fellow photographers the subject of their pictures. The most difficult picture to take, it seems, is one without the presence of another photographer either explicitly or implicitly in the frame.

Everyone wants to record their own version of realityironically, it turns out, because by distracting oneself with a camera, it’s easy to miss the true experience of a moment. At a recent Jack White concert, the guitarist requested that audience members stop trying to take their own photos. “The bigger idea,” his label noted in a statement, “is for people to experience the event with their own eyes and not watch an entire show through a tiny screen in their hand. We have every show photographed professionally and the pictures are available from Jack White’s website shortly after to download for free.”

The abundance of camera phones and inexpensive digital cameras has changed the photographic landscape in countless and still-incompletely understood ways, and it’s not just the North Korean government trying to find ways around the hoards of photographers making their way into everyone else’s shots. Here, TIME looks back on the past year to highlight an increasingly common phenomenon: the photographer in the picture.

Pictures of the Week: March 23 – March 30

From student protests in Jakarta and Tibetan self-immolations in India to Pope Benedict XVI’s Cuba visit and fires in Colorado, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

The Aesthetics of a Dictatorship: North Korea’s Photoshopped Funeral

The authenticity of government-released photographs from North Korea has been questioned for years but not until this week, during the funeral of Kim Jong Il, was the issue as widely discussed and analyzed.

Early Wednesday morning, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the European Pressphoto Agency transmitted a photograph from Kim Jong Il’s funeral procession sent to them by the KCNA, North Korea’s state news agency. The image was widely published, and was part of the January 9, 2011 issue of TIME magazine.

But shortly after TIME’s deadline, around 6:00pm Wednesday, the European Pressphoto Agency sent out a “kill” alert on the photo, advising media outlets not to run the image. Earlier in the day, a nearly identical photograph was sent out by the Associated Press, via Kyodo News, an independent Japanese news agency. The two photographs show crowds lining a Pyongyang street as the dictator’s body was driven past, led by a 1976 Lincoln hearse bearing an enormous portrait of the “Dear Leader.” However, in the KCNA version, a camera crew and their power cords on the left side of the frame, as well as a couple of stragglers near them, were removed, a patch of blurry snow in their place. Snow was also cloned to cover two other spots in the photograph.

Associated Press photo editors working in Tokyo saw the discrepancy and alerted Santiago Lyon, the Director of Photography for the AP in New York, who then contacted editors at the New York Times. Lyon told TIME that the AP, which recently opened a bureau in Pyongyang, has had a long-standing photo sharing relationship with Kyodo. Eventually, all of the news agencies that transmitted the photo sent out “kills”. But by then, our issue had already shipped and several other websites had been using the altered image for hours.

The big question is why did the North Koreans alter the image?

Aesthetically, the doctored photograph is tad bit cleaner, lines straightened, but hardly improved. Psychologically speaking though, the clone job adds order to an already tidy scene. In the undoctored version, the people on the left are drifting from the crowd, their attention elsewhere. The snow is less white. Both of those problems were easily solved by Photoshop. I’ve been examining photographs released by the KCNA for years and many are strikingly beautiful—enormous, perfectly-positioned crowds, immaculate and intricately composed. Now we may know why.

Postscript: On Thursday, a zealous Reddit user added to the frenzy by making note of a photo of an extremely tall man watching the funeral procession. The image, taken by a photographer with Kyodo News and distributed by the AP, spread across the internet quickly, with theories ranging from the man being a North Korean basketball star to another bizarre Photoshop slip-up. However, looking at two separate photographs of the same scene taken at slightly different times, I think the man is legit. The background and surroundings differ but the towering Korean remains in the image, so the likelihood he was cloned into two different photographs is slim.

Patrick Witty is the international picture editor at TIME. You can find him on Twitter @patrickwitty. For more photographs from North Korea, click here.

Fantasy By Benetton: Feuding World Leaders Get to First Base

Hardly a stranger to edgy advertisements, Italian clothing company Benetton continues its penchant for controversy with a new campaign that features images of various political and religious world leaders kissing.

The company’s “Unhate” campaign launched Wednesday, with a mission to combat hatred and “contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance.” The Photoshopped images are racy by nature of its pairings, pitting leaders against their supposed political foes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu locks lips with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, while President Obama gets up close and personal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, among other pairings.  The Washington Post reports that the ads are inspired by this kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German communist leader Erich Honecker in 1979.

Perhaps most controversial was an ad depicting Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed Mohammed el-Tayeb, a top Egyptian imam, but Benetton took it down just an hour after the Vatican issued a protest. A Vatican spokesman issued a statement saying the ad was an “absolutely unacceptable use of the image of the Holy Father, manipulated and exploited in a publicity campaign with commercial ends.” Benetton retracted the image and issued its own statement saying the company was “sorry that the use of the image had so hurt the sensibilities of the faithful.”

The company’s advertisements have always pushed the envelope, but the fashion house hasn’t come out with a campaign of this nature in a long time. The WSJ and the Washington Post both seem skeptical about whether its mission is in earnest, or rather just a last-ditch attempt to resurrect the brand. Either way, people are talking.


Tomas Van Houtryve inside North Korea : Radio Interviews

Exclusive Slideshow for Food For Your Eyes. Photographs by Tomas Van Houtryve, North Korea Secret and Lies, 2008

Photojournalist Tomas Van Houtryve infiltered  North Korea last year pretending he was a business man who wants to sell chocolate to the most secret country in the world . That could be a Marx Brothers stories, it was also a tour de force. One year later, hearing the terrible news of two american journalists have been sentenced for 12 years of hard labored, he then realized how much it was a risky business. The photographs he managed to take in hospitals, factories, shops, subway in Penyang show what no foreigner could see.

His interviews about his photography inside North Korea were recently broadcast on BBC World Service and NPR . It is worth the listen.

“Rare Photos From Inside Kim Jong Il’s North Korea” in TIME Magazine

The slideshow above was prepared for Food For Your Eyes screening in Paris in June 2008 . It was the very first public presentation of this exclusive story. Check also Tomas Van Houtryve Journal