San Francisco-based photographer and longtime Google employee Omid Scheybani recently went on a 10-day trip through North Korea.
He carried only his iPhone to snap the pics, explaining in an interview with photo-sharing app EyeEm, “It was easy to quickly pull up the cam and take shots.”
The notoriously secretive North Korean government has strict guidelines regarding what can and can’t be photographed in the country. Even professional Getty photographers use only their phones to capture images of the rarely-seen culture.
While there were rules that limited what he could capture, Scheybani worked within the restrictions to capture some beautiful moments.
Scheybani and a few friends travelled with the Vancouver-based organisation Choui Consulting. 'We spent time in Pyongyang as well as other places throughout the DPRK,' he told EyeEm.
'I was warned to not take pictures of the Army personnel, the poverty we saw outside of Pyongyang, or portray any of the leaders in any negative way (their full body had to be on the pics, wasn't allow to cut/crop anything),' he told EyeEm.
Scheybani described Pyongyang as an 'exclusive' city in a post on Medium. 'The government decides who gets to live there and it makes sure the most loyal citizens do -- it truly is a privilege and even visiting the city from outside requires permits,' he wrote.
According to Scheybani, there are very few cars in Pyongyang, and the subway only has two lines. He also noticed a somewhat blank, emotionless expression on most of the people's faces.
Instead of cars, many civilians ride bicycles. 'The bicycles are all very old and only 10% of them were equipped with lights,' Scheybani wrote on Medium.
There was a series of stops that Scheybani referred to as places 'the government wanted us to see.' One of these stops was the War Museum. While there, the travellers experienced a 15-minute power blackout -- just one of many that happened during their trip.
The group also had a facilitated middle school visit. While there, they were able to talk to some of the students, many of whom asked the tourists why they were visiting their country.
While Scheybani was certainly stunned by the way of life in North Korea, he reflected positively on his trip. 'While communication was nearly impossible due to language barriers, this didn't keep me from seeking visual or gesticulative contact with people on the streets in the form of a simple smile ... gestures that were almost always reciprocated with a surprised smile, a respectful nod, or a shy wave,' he wrote on Medium.
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