An ingenious approach to personal portraiture in a country with a virtual embargo on the form
While undertaking this photographic investigation of North Korea, French photographer Stephan Gladieu (born 1969) found himself under constant surveillance everywhere he went. Because of these constraints, he managed to invent an ingenious space of freedom. Gladieu created mirror-portraits of people he encountered and was hosted by, often full length, which require a face-on pose and a direct gaze. In this way, he managed to create a form similar to North Korea’s propaganda imagery, which made his approach more comprehensible and permissible to the authorities.
Fifty years after its foundation, North Korea endures a media portrayal of war, famine, nuclear programs and military parades. Indoors, people are required to display portraits of the regime’s founder, Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-Il. Family photos are not allowed; nor are personal portraits. Consequently, Gladieu’s work attains an almost historic act of intervention in the country’s visual politics.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Stephan Gladieu is represented by Olivier Castaing, owner of the SCHOOL GALLERY, in Paris and ARTCO GALLERY in Germany, Cape Town and Joshua Tree.
Stephan Gladieu’s career began in 1989 covering war & social issues, traveling across Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan) and Asia (India, Nepal, Vietnam, China, etc.).
His work began as travel features, but he became increasingly interested in using portraiture to illustrate the human condition around the world. His portraiture has included covering the Saudi Princes, Princesses in Nepal, actors & directors behind the scenes at Cannes Film Festival, politicians, intellectuals, but also everyday people the world over.
Stephan still realizes international features and portraits series for international magazines, but he is mainly focused on his personal work: the human story through colorful portrait collection.
On the side of his journalist activity, Stephan is working with private companies (LVMH, Danone, TOTAL…) and international intitutions (World Bank, UNICEF) to work on their visual identity.
Stephan Gladieu’s work is published in leading publications in France and internationally.