Discuss as:

Associated Press photographer talks about looking for the familiar in isolated North Korea

David Guttenfelder / AP

In this Tuesday Oct. 11, 2011 photo, North Korean soccer fans react after their team missed a goal during a World Cup qualifying match between North Korea and Uzbekistan, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder has made five trips to North Korea this year. Here's a slideshow from his recent travels, and his comments about the trip are below: 

During a reporting trip to North Korea last month, AP Seoul Bureau Chief Jean Lee and I asked to visit one of the country's largest shopping centers: Pyongyang Department Store No. 1. Inside the crowded four-story building, drab, domestically produced goods were stacked on racks all around us. There were unsteady pyramids of rain boots and dozens of women's bras stapled to a wall. On one TV among a bank of sets for sale, a video of leader Kim Jong Il astride a galloping stallion played on a loop. Everything felt strange to me.

But then I saw something familiar. I saw a father with his young daughter in a bright pink jacket riding the escalator. As they reached the 4th floor, the man playfully lifted his little girl in the air by her wrists and then set her safely down over the last moving stair. It was something so natural, so universal. I have young daughters and I do the same on escalators.  I felt a connection, and took a picture.

David Guttenfelder / AP

In this Sunday Oct. 9, 2011 photo, a North Korean man lifts his child up as they arrive at the top of the escalator at Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea.

Photographers all over the world use feature pictures and street photography to try and say something meaningful about regular people's lives. It looks simple, but I think it is one of the most important things we do as photographers. It is even more important in a country like North Korea, where decades of  isolation have left it a mystery to most of the world. The responsibility of opening a window into life there - even if we open it little by little - is something I take seriously.

David Guttenfelder / AP

In this Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 photo, North Korean commuters look out from the rear window of a trolley car in Pyongyang.

Between the two of us,  Jean and I have made 19 trips to North Korea.
This was our fifth together in 2011. North Korea has little experience with foreign journalists, and there are limits to what we are allowed to see. Our goals for each trip have been modest, but each time we try to find ways to understand, and explain the country better.