Ballsy German photojournalist Julia Leeb has just dropped a stunning collection of photographic work exploring one of the most restricted places on earth. The book, North Korea: Anonymous Country, documents Leeb's travels, peeling back the shroud that covers the country and stealing moments to take testimony for the rest of the world. Because architecture is so often used and commissioned as a symbol of wealth and power, the buildings of North Korea, a state founded in the aftermath of World War II, tell the story of dystopia—one filled with icons of dictators, dizzying towers of communal housing, and a hotel that, despite once being in the running for world's tallest building, remains nothing but an empty shell.
In many ways, North Korea is a time capsule of former era, both as one of the last remaining Communist strongholds and as an utterly isolated territory.
After Japanese annexation during World War II, the Soviet Union installed a new dictatorial government in 1946, and red nations across the globe helped rebuild the bombed-out capital city of Pyongyang. Monumental architecture presents a united front for the government's public image; museums dot the city featuring falsified exhibits that proclaim the dominance of the country's innovation and industry. That elaborate artifice is exactly what makes Leeb's book so fascinating. Intrigued? Read on.
↑ The Grand People's Study Hall in Pyongyang, with an odd mix of architectural styles and propagandistic symbols.
↑ The North and South Korean sisters arch in Pyongyang, which represents "the continued hope for reunification of the two countries."
↑ In the capital, statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il show the massive scale of the rulers' dominance.