North Korea: The Power of Dreams

An up-close look at daily life in North Korea

A brutal military dictatorship, extreme poverty, concrete cities, empty hotels, farcical ceremonies, nuclear weapon tests: the Western media's depiction of North Korea fixates, somewhat justifiably, on the country's abuses and absurdities.

When such stories slide into sensationalism, however, it becomes easy to forget about the republic's almost 25m inhabitants. They become a uniformed mass, denuded of individuality and autonomy.

The Swiss-born photographer Xiomara Bender aims to remedy this. Her new book, North Korea: The Power of Dreams looks at this ignored populace. Captured on a trio of trips to the country, they show its inhabitants going about their daily lives.

For some, these involve marching formation and rituals; for others, they include watching plays, cycling around town, playing football and travelling by public transport. Although Bender doesn't shy away from showing the desolate urban landscape and rigid society, she opens a window onto the bigger picture.

The book contains introductory texts by Bender herself as well as pieces by Anne Ganteführer-Trier, Stefan Grüll and Tom Jacobi. Explaining the purpose of her book, Bender says: "If one wants to form a personal view of this apparently faceless country, it is best to let the photographs speak from themselves, since they can help capture the reality behind the carefully maintained facade, telling of sorrows, anxieties, desires, and even dreams."