Are you curious what photographers are posting in their making-of-zone?
The making-of-zone on Emphas.is is the place where photographers update their backers. Once a photographer is on the road and producing his story, he will share insights into the production of his story, and share tales from the journey in the form of videos, images and blog posts.
Tomas van Houtryve, a member at VII, is currently producing part of his project “Borderline: North Korea”. Since he recently managed to enter the Demilitarized Zone he has opened up the making-of-zone of his project.
As photographer, Tomas has been fascinated with North Korea for years. He visited Pyongyang twice, but there was a limit of how much he could see or learn from the inside. Next, his curiosity took him to the Chinese-North Korean border with the help of a grant from the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund. He managed to meet with several North Koreans who had left their country in the past year. They told him of recent food shortages, ongoing power cuts, and the shocking brutality or authorities.
He now started the second phase of his North Korean border project, tracing the North-South Korean frontier and the D.M.Z. Here is part of Tomas’ update from the road:
“After a long wait, I received a message that the South Korean army had granted me access to the D.M.Z. The location was the farthest observation post on the east side of Korea, near the Sea of Japan.
Accompanied by my Korean friend, Woohae, and an employee of the Ministry of National Defense, we left a military hostel at 6:00 am. It was still dark and snowing as we headed out.
We had to pass through two fortified gates before we reached the outpost. The first gate is called the CCL, or Civilian Control Line. Here our documents were checked with a list of authorized visitors, and we were issued blue armbands marked “Press” in English and Korean. Once inside the first gate, a Jeep escort lead the way into the D.M.Z.
The second gate is called the SLL, or Southern Limit Line. I shot video as we passed through. Then we passed a series of anti-tank columns and headed up an extremely steep and icy hill. As our tires started slipping, I noticed the small triangular signs on both sides of the road warning of land mines.
The escort Jeep ahead of us started slipping, even though they had on snow chains. We didn’t have chains. Half way up the hill our car’s tires spun until we couldn’t advance. We gingerly backed into a parking spot on the edge of the mine warning signs. Then we loaded into the South Korean military Jeep to continue to the top.
After we arrived at the observation post, I met with two U.S. Army soldiers who were stationed there as observers. One of them had been there for two and a half years, and he said I was the first Western photographer he had seen.
“I don’t know who you know, or how you managed to get access, but it is rare to be allowed up here, especially to take pictures. A South Korea TV crew visited last year, but they were only allowed to film that lake on the North Korean side of the border. They weren’t allow to aim their cameras anywhere else,” he said as he pointed to a frozen lake about 2 km in the distance.
There were restrictions placed on me too. I wasn’t allowed to photograph the South Korean guard posts on top of the hills on either side of the central observations post. They also told me not to take pictures of their weapons and electronic jamming equipment. But they did let me walk along the fence with patrolling soldiers and take many photos from the terrace around the post…”
To see the images, follow Tomas on his journey. People who sign-up and pay $10 to help fund the project on Emphas.is will get the back-story as he makes my way along the border. You are encouraged to ask questions, post comments, and get involved with the issue on a deeper level.