North Korea | Stéphan Gladieu

2022 Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography Winner
Curator: Maya Anner

Stéphan Gladieu presents his series North Korea, which earned him, out of hundreds of candidates from around the world, the 2022 Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography.
Gladieu’s portraits contemplate the interplay between appearance and identity, and between the individual and the collective. His use of photography serves as an expression of his attempt to decipher standardization in relation to collective ideals that shape societal norms, highlighting the paradoxical nature that exists in the identity of an individual. Through his portraits, Gladieu unveils narratives embedded within specific moments captured on camera, where the relationship between the subject and their surroundings indicates a compressed and layered reality.
At the heart of the series North Korea is the existence of the individual as inseparable from the collective reality. According to Gladieu, these photographs echo the country’s dictatorial dynastic regime, and portray the underlying tension he experienced during his stay in North Korea, throughout which he was closely escorted. With minimal freedom within the constraints imposed on him, Gladieu managed to carve out a somewhat independent space, allowing him to focus on capturing the identity of his subjects. The composition of his portraits often features full-size images with frontal poses and direct gazes, infused with codes reminiscent of propaganda imagery. This approach aims to create a sense of familiarity, especially for the individuals portrayed. In a country that barely recognizes the significance of the individual’s existence, Gladieu’s work in ‘North Korea’ brings the meaning of the individual to the forefront, making it an act of great courage.

The exhibition is made possible by the Zvi and Ofra Meitar Family Foundation

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