Werner Kranwetvogel
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Mass games Pyongyang

After three intense trips through North Korea, Werner Kranwetvogel now knows just about everything about their famous acrobatic spectacles put on in the capital city Pyongyang’s massive stadium.

In 2009 he was in fact the sole western guest to obtain special permission from North Korean officials to photograph the enormous show Arirang with over 100,000 performers. While the pictures published by the North Korean propaganda system showed merely the masses as perfect total ornament, Kranwetvogel was interested in isolating individual performing groups. With a telephoto lens he was able to zoom in on single movements, gestures, and heads from within the ever-shifting carpet of color created by the masses.

His monograph A Night in Pyongyang, published in 2007, visualizes human extremes: collective devotion as well as short moments of individuality. His details from a group of some twenty thousand school children is spectacular as they from their special seats create a backdrop for the acrobats with colorfully decorated large notebooks. According to the perfectly timed schedule, these cardboard posters are raised simultaneously into the air, creating entire tiers of shifting and wafting flower patterns and animal images. In fact they incessantly visually compete with the perfection of the adults on the field. Kranwetvogel even photographed some children groups in the warm-up stages – some of the rarest moments preceding the exact simultaneity of the singular choreography. His camera sweeps over moments of childish awe and individuality just before a spectacle that demands the utmost discipline and sacrifice of self from its participants. In this excessive mass scenario the photographer champions idiosyncratic perspectives and cropping; he is both detective and unmatched documentarian.

Kranwetvogel has also been able to put his artistic talents to use in his nearly 15 years as a director for advertising and short films. His photographic strength and his unmistakable artistic signature are manifest in his love of details as well as his knack for capturing specific moments in a long chain of observations.

Christina Wendenburg
1968 born in Munich, Germany
1991-1992   studied German literature, philosophy and history at Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Germany
1992-1994freelance lighting technician and head lighting technician
1994-2002degree in film and TV, College of Film and TV, Munich Germany
since 1998 freelance director
2004-2006 Seminar „Bildgestaltung“ from the Filmhochschule Konrad Wolf, Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany
2006A Night in Pyongyang, first and only book of images in the world of the mass games in North Korea, Nicolai-Verlag, Berlin

lives and works in Berlin, Germany

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