Max Pinckers: Red Ink
Edition of 850 copies
Max Pinckers, 2018
In the North Korea series by the Belgian photographer Max Pinckers there is not one propaganda image of Kim Jong-un. And not one parade. Apart from a single soldier, you can see a lot of nice people from Pyongyang, friendly smiling and remarkably well dressed. Interiors also: kraaknet, but less kitschy than an average Chinese restaurant in Belgium. And some strange, seemingly haphazardly shot still lifes.
In his photography, Pinckers always combines great clarity with a certain mystique, sometimes with subtle irony. With his predilection for staging and artificial light, he is the antipode of the classic documentary photographer, who, in coarse-grained black-and-white, pretends to be a true-to-life reproduction of reality. Something that, according to Pinckers, is an illusion: every image is put in scene to a greater or lesser extent.
Pinckers’ visit to North Korea lasted four days. A city trip to Pyongyang, say. Because he realized that he might never return there, he completely changed his working method – meticulous preparation, slow execution, long post-processing. Instead of analog, he shot digitally. Instead of carefully selecting it, he focused his lens on every situation, every scene, every living and non-living being. Instead of at most thirty images a day he made six hundred.
That Pinckers could work so quickly and still be able to print his artistic stamp, he owes to the country that is North Korea. In the mausoleum of communism you do not have to stage anything, everything has already been put in scene. Foreign visitors are shown around in an ordered decor. Pinckers thinks that theatrical by putting a gloss layer on it. Under the motto: if it is fake, it can look better as advertising.
(text Danny Ilegems)