AFP photojournalist Ed Jones has been visiting North Korea since 2012. Until very recently, the purpose of these trips had been to cover mass military parades and large-scale events, along with a sizeable foreign media presence. "However," he told IBTimes UK, "with the opening of an AFP office in Pyongyang in September, we have begun making more regular visits."
In addition to covering tightly choreographed official events such as North Korea's first air show, Jones has been capturing daily life on the streets of Pyongyang. His photos are remarkable for just how unremarkable everything seems – commuters travelling to and from work, children playing football or visiting museums – but as has been well documented, they do not reflect the reality of life in poverty-stricken rural villages outside the showcase capital.
Pyongyang is easily the most developed city in North Korea and is relatively comfortable for the increasingly affluent segment of its populace. Smartphones, traffic jams, restaurants, taxis and gleaming new high rise apartments blocks – this could almost be any city in the world (were it not for all the propaganda billboards and portraits and statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il).
Jones told IBTimes UK: "Covering North Korea presents a number of unique challenges. Access to places, events and people is often restricted. Photographing daily life is very much a priority. Even the most mundane events or outings can often yield worthwhile images that, taken together, provide some insight, even if the wider picture is often obscured or out of view completely."
Agence France-Presse has become one of only a handful of foreign media organisations to have a permanent presence in the one of the world's most isolated states. The Pyongyang bureau allows AFP to regularly send teams of foreign text, video and photo journalists into North Korea.
This article was first published on September 30, 2016