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David Guttenfelder's Hasselblad panoramas from North Korea - Editor's Choice - Pictures of the Day - December 21, 2012

Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder's access to North Korea is enviable, and a photographer's dream. His many photos of the country depict an endlessly fascinating, visually surreal place. He's made 17 trips to the reclusive nation since 2000 — including six since The Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang opened in January 2012.

From a photo editor's perspective, it's always a pleasure to see his photos rolling over the wires, and today was like an early Christmas present when I saw these 34 frames of daily North Korean life, all shot on a Hasselblad XPAN from his visits this year.


Some words from him on how he photographed these remarkable images:

For this project, I used a Hasselblad XPAN, a panoramic-view film camera that is no longer manufactured. Throughout the year, I wore it around my neck and shot several dozen rolls of colour negative film in between my normal coverage of news and daily life with my AP-issued digital cameras.

The XPAN is quiet, discreet, manual and simple. Because it has a wide panoramic format, it literally gives me a different view of North Korea. The film also reflects how I feel when I'm in North Korea, wandering among the muted or gritty colours, and the fashions and styles that often seem to come from a past generation.

In my photography, I try to maintain a personal point of view, a critical eye, and shoot with a style that I think of as sometimes-whimsical and sometimes-melancholy. My aim is to open a window for the world on a place that is widely misunderstood and that would otherwise rarely be seen by outsiders.

I hope these images help people to develop their own understanding of the country, one that goes beyond the point-counterpoint presented by Pyongyang and Washington.And maybe they can help create some sort of bridge between the people of North Korea and the rest of the world.

The full 34 photo set continues after the jump.





North Koreans try to rebuild the banks of a washed out riverbed near their corn fields which were damaged by July flooding, in Songchon County.



Pedestrians walk along a street past apartment blocks in central Pyongyang.



North Korean men watch others play basketball at a public court in Pyongyang.



Men study in desks beneath portraits of the country's late leaders, Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il, at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang.



North Koreans gather along the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang to watch a fireworks display to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.



The sun sets over Pyongyang, North Korea, behind the curtained window of a downtown hotel room.



A displaced North Korean man, left homeless by July flooding, walks among temporary tents and damaged homes in his destroyed neighborhood in Ungok.



North Korean men drink and sing inside a pagoda at a hilltop park overlooking Pyongyang.



A waiter at a hotel, catering to the country's elite, walks on the resort's private beach at Majon Beach near Hamhung.



North Korean commuters move in and out of a train on a subway platform at the metro station in Pyongyang.



Apple tree saplings stand in rows beneath workers' housing on a hill at a communal apple farm on the outskirts of Pyongyang.



North Korean military members applaud the country's leaders, including Kim Jong Un, from their seats on the field of a stadium in Pyongyang during a mass meeting called by North Korea's ruling party.



Commuters ride on a trolley car in central Pyongyang.



A coat dries on the balcony of an apartment block in central Pyongyang.



North Koreans try to move a truck, retrofitted to run on a barrel of burning wood, in a riverbed near Ungok, during operations to aid victims of heavy flooding.



Soldiers march and carry a portrait of Kim Jong Il during a military parade at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang commemorating what would have been the late leader's 70th birthday.



A female soldier, working as a guide, stands before a map to explain the layout of what is said to be a camp site where the late leader Kim Il Sung overnighted while leading a battle against the Japanese at the foot of Mt. Paektu.



A woman enters the front doors of the Grand People's Study House where a statue of the late leader Kim Il Sung stands in Pyongyang.



A boy plays badminton at Majon Beach near Hamhung.



Artificial flowers decorate a wall inside a restaurant near Samjiyon.



Ears of field corn lay in piles along a roadside during the autumn corn harvest on a farm on the edge of Kaesong. It was a tough year for North Korea's farmers, who grappled with an extended dry spell in the spring, followed by heavy rains from a series of summer storms and typhoon.



Students practice playing the accordions at the Samjiyon Schoolchildrens' Palace in Samjiyon. The facility was built for children to take part in after school programs in the arts, sciences, sports, computer and vocational training.



A communal apple farm factory for bottling apple juice on the outskirts of Pyongyang.



North Koreans gather under a diving board platform to watch as fellow swimmers hesitate to try a dive at a newly opened swimming pool in Pyongyang.



Forest printed wallpaper hangs around a doorway in Pyongyang.



A North Korean stands on a rural road in the countryside in North Phyongan Province.



A family picnics in the grass at a hilltop park overlooking Pyongyang.



A woman stands on the side of a road holding artificial flowers after returning from a rehearsal for a mass parade planned for later in the week to honour the country's leaders in Pyongyang.



Rockets roll past flower-waving civilians and a soldier standing at attention during a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.



Soldiers stand guard in front of the country's Unha-3 rocket at Sohae Satellite Station in Tongchang-ri. The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was launched on April 13, 2012 but failed to reach orbit.



North Koreans walk under a highway bridge on the outskirts of Pyongyang.



A boy runs on a hilltop in the countryside in North Phyongan Province.



Military members chat as they line up at a stadium in Pyongyang during a mass meeting called by the Central Committee of North Korea's ruling party.



North Koreans rest under portraits of the late leaders, Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il, at the end of a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Kim Il Sung.


Award-winning photographer David Guttenfelder is AP's chief photographer for Asia. He is based in Tokyo but makes frequent trips to North Korea to run AP's photo operations there.


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