Inside Pyongyang's Masudae Assembly Hall two women wait to lead us down a red carpet to meet Kim Yong Nam, the head of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, April 10, 2013.
Inside Pyongyang's Masudae Assembly Hall two women wait to lead us down a red carpet to meet Kim Yong Nam, the head of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, April 10, 2013.David Guttenfelder—AP
Inside Pyongyang's Masudae Assembly Hall two women wait to lead us down a red carpet to meet Kim Yong Nam, the head of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, April 10, 2013.
A surreal mass synchronized swimming performance in Pyongyang, North Korea, February 15, 2013.
Display at the "Kimjongilia" and "Kimilsungia" flower exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea, July 24, 2013.
Korean War veterans enter a cemetery for their deceased fellow war veterans in Pyongyang, July 24, 2013.
A North Korean tour guide stands on the top of Juche Tower in Pyongyang and looks across the Taedong River at the city below, September 17, 2013.
A restaurant in the Hyangsan Hotel at the foot of Mt. Myohyang, North Korea, February 22, 2013.
On stage. Mangyondae Children's Palace, April 28, 2013.
Men shielding themselves from the wind as they try to light their cigarettes, Sinpyong, North Korea, November 11, 2013.
Waiting room, Pyongyang, April 18, 2013.
The meeting, Pyongyang, September 21, 2013.
North Korean men on an airport transport bus headed to the Air Koryo flight for Beijing, Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, September 24, 2013.
Along a rural road east of Kaesong, North Korea, April 29, 2013.
A room full of stuffed animals used to teach biology at Kaeson Kindergarten, May 5, 2013 .
A dressmaker's window display in Pyongyang, February 21, 2013.
North Korean runners rest at the finish line of the 26th Mangyongdae Prize Marathon in Pyongyang, Kim Il-Sung Stadium, April 14, 2013.
Glittery silver heels and a traditional dress as colorful as an Easter egg, Pyongyang, April 10, 2013.
North Korean state media in action, Pyongyang, October 3, 2013.
Telephone. North Korea, July 28, 2013.
North Koreans dance a traditional folk dance together beneath a huge mosaic of the late leader Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 11, 2013.
Pyongyang bowling lanes locker smoking section, September 19, 2013.
Men sat working beneath a control board at a Pyongyang factory, October 16, 2013.
The chest of a North Korean Army Colonel, April 25, 2013.
An apartment block stands above the schoolyard playground equipment of a Pyongyang kindergarten, March 12, 2013.
North Korean workers sort seafood at a factory in Rajin, December 3, 2013.
A pin over the heart of every North Korean citizen, July 25, 2013.
Models of North Korean rockets were incorporated into the flower arrangements at the Kimilsungia exhibition in Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
North Korean soldiers gather at a cemetery for military veterans near Pyongyang as they observe Chuseok, Korea's traditional Thanksgiving holiday, September 19, 2013.
Children who survived Typhoon Haiyan stand outside be window of a family run food shop in a village near Tacloban, Philippines, November 2013.
Typhoon aftermath in the Philippines city of Tacloban, November 15, 2013.
A boy plays in the street in the Typhoon Haiyan destroyed town of Tacloban, Philippines, November 17, 2013.
A city in ruins, Tacloban, Philippines, November 23, 2013.
Sugar Lake Camp, June 29, 2013.
Near Gleason, Wisconsin, July 2, 2013.
Farmhouse pool, Van Meter, Iowa, July 5, 2013.
From Iowa to Michigan. Patchwork below. October 27, 2013.
Hide and seek 1, Tokyo, April 5, 2013.
Hide and seek 2, Tokyo, April 5, 2013.
Hide and seek 8, Tokyo, April 6, 2013.
Hide and seek 10, Tokyo, April 6, 2013.
Hide and seek 17, April 7, 2013.
Inside Pyongyang's Masudae Assembly Hall two women wait to lead us down a red carpet to meet Kim Yong Nam, the head of t

David Guttenfelder—AP
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David Guttenfelder Is TIME's Pick for Instagram Photographer of the Year 2013

Dec 18, 2013

David Guttenfelder is TIME’s pick for Instagram photographer of the year. The veteran photojournalist is a seven-time World Press Photo award-winner. He has traveled the world for the Associated Press, covering wars, elections and natural disasters in over 75 countries.But in 2013, Guttenfelder, the AP’s chief Asia photographer, won over a new audience after he became one of the first foreign photographers to be granted the ability to work in North Korea. And he featured some of his most striking, intimate pictures from the Hermit Kingdom on Instagram.

North Korea, an isolated country ruled by a paranoid and brutal regime, is of instant fascination to the outside world. It’s so closed and sealed from foreign eyes that for years the dominant image of the place was of its huge Stalinist propaganda displays at events such as the annual Mass Games. That projected North Korea was less a nation of real people, it seemed, than an eerie totalitarian spectacle, forever wrapped around the myths and cults of the ruling Kim dynasty.

Guttenfelder’s year of work chips beneath the pariah state’s absurd façade. A government minder shadows him wherever he goes, but his sustained presence in North Korea has yielded a unique perspective. “Nobody knows anything about [North Korea] and what it looks like,” says Guttenfelder, speaking to TIME over Skype from a hotel in Pyongyang. “I feel like there’s a big opportunity and a big responsibility.”

In his Instagram pictures, we see the spectral emptiness of Pyongyang’s Orwellian city blocks, the hushed quiet of passengers in buses, the coiled patterns of a carpet in an otherwise non-descript waiting room. The photos that end up on Guttenfelder’s Instagram feed are often ones he says wouldn’t have a home elsewhere—of the margins of a scene, of objects cast in still-life.

Because much of what he does in North Korea is rushed and shepherded by official guides, Guttenfelder says the country “is not the kind of place where you can make what photojournalists call good pictures very easily.” Instead, says Guttenfelder, “it’s really more about the sum of all the parts. When you add up all the pieces something interesting starts to emerge.” To that end, Guttenfelder, who studied anthropology in university, has compiled a running series of North Korean “artifacts” on his Instagram feed: curios and knick-knacks collected in his travels there that are in equal measure mundane, dated, alien. “They are little pieces of the puzzle I’m putting together,” he says.

Guttenfelder’s Instagram work, though, was not restricted just to the puzzle of North Korea. It ranged from the cornfields of Iowa—where he journeyed to attend his grandmother’s funeral—to the nightmare of the central Philippines city of Tacloban, ravaged by one of the most devastating typhoons in recent memory. For all the strangeness of North Korea, his pictures from elsewhere are charged with a similar energy and vision. “I tend to see things that are melancholy or a bit surreal,” he says from Pyongyang. “I don’t think I’m photographing rural America that much differently than this country.”—Ishaan Tharoor

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