Ilya Pitalev (Russia)

Personality and society. Reality vs illusions. 

North Korea seems to be the most closed part of the world for journalists. We are getting too little information on the developments in this country. Last year the closed door was slightly opened for a short period. North Korea celebrated the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-Sung, its founding father's birth. In these few days the country was opened for journalists and photographers from the outer world. So I, as a photographer of the Russian RIA Novosti agency, luckily happened to be there among other journalists.

It’s a pity, that due to travelling restrictions in the country and the capital Pyongyang I did not see all I wanted.

I was born in the Soviet Union and remember the time, when our countries had a lot in common, so this trip was a sort of a time machine for me. Empty shelves in shops, portraits of the country leaders in the streets, slogans about the communist society values, concentrated and even gloomy faces of the passers by.

I remember similar times in my country.

The Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago, my country has changed greatly since than.

The people of North Korea have a new leader now, the great-grandson of the founder of the state Kim Il-Sung.

What will happen to North Korea, to its people, to its young leader Kim Jong-un?  Answers to these questions bothered me on my trip. 

Ilya Pitalev is a professional photograper, born in Moscow, USSR, in 1970. Since 1992  he has worked in "Krasnaya Zvezda", "Komsomolskaya Pravda", and "Kommersant" newspapers, covering current events in Moscow and the armed conflict in Chechnya, the Beslan tragedy, violence in Belgrade, three Olympic Games in Athens, Vancouver and London and the Paralympic Games. In 2012 he was awarded a prize at the China International Press Photo Contest for his photo story "Hunting for walruses". In 2013 he was awarded the first place in the Current Affairs Category of the Sony World Photography Awards. Now he is interested in photoprojects concerning social and environmental problems. Currently he is a staff photographer for RIA-Novosty agency based in Moscow.