Architectural photographer Dieter Leistner was born the same year East Germany began construction on the Berlin Wall. He was 37 when it fell. Maybe that’s why his interest in North and South Korea feels so personal — he spent 40 years in another divided country.
Leistner’s new book, Korea – Korea, is a compendium of images that were shot in 2006, in Pyongyang, and 2012, in Seoul. Each spread compares two different public spaces in each city, including bus stops, subway cars, and public squares. In a foreword to the book, curator Klaus Klemp explains his perspective as a German:
Up until 1989, Koreans and Germans shared the same fate, although for quite different reasons. While the division of Germany was the result of a terrible war unleashed by Germany across the whole of Europe, the creation of a capitalist South and a communist North Korea was the result of Japanese occupation and a proxy war that the former World War II allies and later Cold War antagonists carried out on Korean soil.
German division into West and East and the Korean division into South and North are thus not entirely comparable. But this constellation of the division of a nation, with people cut off from each other, families torn apart, a total blackout on all contact, and the suffering of many victims who paid with their lives or years in labour camps for any attempts to flee is particularly painful for the German observers who can remember their own similar experiences.
The side-by-side image comparison could’ve easily become gimmicky (or even exploitive). But Leistner manages to avoid that pitfall — mainly because of his talent as a photographer, but also because he focuses on the everyday experiences that the two cultures still share. [Gestalten via It’s Nice That]