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Photography Series: Peter Hove Olesen

Brian Sokol at the Half King
North Korea / Peter Hove Oleson

           Opening: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, 7:30 PM
           Moderated by Time senior photo editor Myles Little

Working for eight days in Pyongyang in 2013, Peter went to North Korea with a Danish theater troupe on a cultural exchange program. He was surveilled at all times, forbidden access to locals, and told where to eat, sleep and walk. At first blush, the images he made in such conditions look like a document about the banality of total control: it just doesn't seem so bad in the DPRK.
 
But when you take into account defectors' accounts, his photos undergo a transformation. Every image re-forms as stagecraft, with paranoid directors, and actors who are bidden to play the same role, regardless of individual ability or desire. Unlike the theater troupe Peter traveled with, North Korean society is locked into the same script generation after generation. Fear, repression, and paranoia are so intense that the society looks robotic. In this light, Peter's photos morph into a portrait of a people beset with paranoia, repetition, obedience to show, and profound isolation. This degree of tension, as frozen in place as it appears, is susceptible to collapse in a flash.
 
---Anna Van Lenten 

Peter Hove Olesen is a staff photographer at Politiken, one of the biggest newspapers in Denmark. Along with his Copenhagen-based daily work, he has worked in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Haiti, and other conflict zones. In 2013 he fulfilled a long-term dream: to visit North Korea. He went with a theater group to document their experience. He has won two Press Photographer of the Year awards, and two Picture of the Year awards.

The Half King Photography Series is dedicated to showing exceptional photography. In tandem with its reading series, The Half King fosters a dialog between photographers and writers that underscores the importance of their unique relationship. Co-curating its photography series are James Price, Assignments Editor at Getty Reportage, and Anna Van Lenten, writer and editor.

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