July 9, 2014 4:00 AM EDT

When Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder first gained unprecedented access to North Korea in 2011, he used his iPhone to document daily life in the isolated, ultra-secretive state. His pictures then and in the years since have brought him attention well beyond the photojournalism sphere—he was named TIME’s Instagram Photographer of the Year in 2013—and have made him a sought-after photographer, working on commissions for publications like National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine.

But one fact about Guttenfelder’s work in North Korea remains little known. For the past year, he’s been using the geo-tagging features of Instagram and Foursquare to create an unprecedented map of restaurants, hotels, train stations, schools and bowling alleys, visually charting entire neighborhoods and cities previously unseen through Western eyes. “There was no independent record of the place before,” the 45-year-old Iowa native tells TIME. “In the last three years, [the AP and I] have built something that’s bigger than any of us.”

The upfronts, as we noted with NBC the other day, are a great place for networks to brag to advertisers if they're number one in the ratings. But they're also a great place to brag if you're not number one in the ratings--because thanks to the magic of statistics, selective data, and subjectivity, you can always find something to be number one in! ABC, set to finish last again in the advertiser demographics, gave a master class in that today. Programming executive Paul Lee spun so hard I'd be inclined to call him the Tasmanian Devil, were that not a Warner Bros. and not a Disney property. (With few hits to promote, ABC's presentation was heavy on clips of other Disney siblings, from ESPN to Toy Story to Star Wars. ABC: we may not be popular, but our parent owns other things that are!) So we learned that ABC is the number-one rated network... for the last four weeks. It's the number-one rated network in something called "brand affinity." And it's number one, somehow, in "social connections." "We are the social network," Lee said. Viewers may not be watching ABC shows, but they're tweeting about them, with affinity! Jimmy Kimmel, whose bite-the-hand standup is reliably one of the best things of any upfronts week, had a quick comeback: "We’re No. 1? Look, I don’t know what this 'brand' bullshit is, I don’t know what kind of 17-mile-long hand-drawn wire they spun that one in, but the ABC I work at is not No. 1." When you're not number one, you take what you can get, though, and ABC hammered the "social network" angle through the presentation, reminiscing about the Oscars and Ellen DeGeneres' "selfie heard 'round the world." It's odd, then, that one of the network's fall sitcoms, Selfie--I'm serious--is a Pygmalion story about a woman whose addiction to social media leaves her with thousands of followers but no friends. It's a bit of a mixed message. Stop burying your face in Facebook, social-media slaves! But be sure to tweet about #Scandal! The thing is, whether ABC's crop of new shows is good or bad, the network does have oe thing to legitimately brag about. In what has turned out to be a good season (for a change) for casting and creative diversity, ABC has the most racially varied crop of new series out there. (Fox, which presented earlier this week, also did well on this front.) Much thanks must go to Shonda Rhimes. An African American creator is now so successful her shows are ABC's entire Thursday night--Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and now How to Get Away With Murder, in which Viola Davis plays a hard-charging defense attorney and law professor. The growth of Scandal, and the booming career of star Kerry Washington, has shown broadcasters it's safe to put a woman of color in the lead of a drama (see also Nicole Beharie in Sleepy Hollow and Halle Berry in the upcoming Extant) Beyond Shondaland, there are sitcoms about African American, Hispanic, and Asian American families: Anthony Anderson in Black-ish, about a dad who fears his kids are losing connection with their roots; Cristela, in which Latina comic Cristela Alonzo plays a law student living with her extended family; and Fresh off the Boat, based on the memoir by chef Eddie Huang. Maybe most ambitious is the midseason drama American Crime, from Twelve Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, a multiracial ensemble drama about a murder case that says it will steer directly into issues of race in America. (It's hard to judge a drama from a trailer, but if nothing else it looks provocative and emotionally wrenching.) If nothing else, it's a sign that TV executives--not unlike many of the advertisers they're pitching to--recognize that reflecting the colors and cultures of the audience is just good business. But ABC has a lot of holes to fill. If this new schedule doesn't do the job, they may need to come back next year with more new categories to be "number one" in.
Khalid Mohammed—AP

It’s only fitting that, as Guttenfelder leaves AP after a 20-year career at the agency, National Geographic, an organization founded 126 years ago “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” would name Guttenfelder one of its new explorers.

Last month, National Geographic announced the launch of its Photography Fellows program, which will see four photographers—Lynn Johnson, Cory Richards, Brian Skerry and Guttenfelder—share their visual expertise and storytelling knowledge with the public while producing new photographic projects “to illuminate, teach, and inspire the world at large,” the organization says.

“This is the first time that they’ve had photography fellows,” says Guttenfelder. “One of the first projects I’ll be working on will be with [celebrated wildlife photographer] Nick Nichols and Cory Richards. We’ll be documenting the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem, and my role will be to focus on local issues and people. Soon, I’ll be in Cody, Wyoming, photographing Harley Davidson bikers and wild bison”—a far cry from the conflicts, wars and natural disasters he covered in his two decades at AP.

“After all this time at AP, it was only natural to try something new,” says Guttenfelder. “Our industry is changing a lot and it’s exciting and confusing at the same time. But there are a lot of innovations happening, and I’d been thinking for a while that I’d like to test myself in this new world. After 20 years, I thought I’d give the second half of my career a try.”

Born in Iowa in 1969, Guttenfelder always sought to see the world. “I wanted to see things for myself, and photography was one way I could do it,” he says. While at university, he moved to Tanzania as an exchange student to learn Swahili. “I started photographing then and when I came home I worked for a very small newspaper covering high school sports. I was in my early 20s and I had a new sense of purpose, so I quit and moved to Africa [in 1994] for what I thought would be a few weeks or a few months.”

He spent the following 20 years outside of the U.S., visiting his native country only when on assignment or when meeting with photo editors.

Sabir Hussein Shah holds his nine-year-old son Zeeshan, who was injured in the Oct. 8 earthquake, as he is treated after having his arm amputated at a field hospital in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, Oct. 30, 2005. The photo was awarded the 1st prize in the General News Singles category in the 2006 World Press Photo contest.
David Guttenfelder—AP

Guttenfelder has worked in 75 countries, finding a home in Kenya, Ivory Coast, India, Israel and Japan. He’s covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the aftermaths of the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; and the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide.

“I see the last 20 years as sort of big chunks,” he tells TIME. “In Africa, I was so young and fearless and tenacious. I had so much energy. Then, Iraq and Afghanistan, which I took very seriously. I became obsessed with Afghanistan and it has defined a lot of what I did in the post-9/11 world.”

During his years at AP, Guttenfelder’s won seven World Press Photo prizes, the Overseas Press Club of America John Faber and Olivier Rebbot awards and the 2013 International Center of Photography Infinity Prize for photojournalism. “AP gave me a front-row seat to so many world-changing events,” he explains. “They trusted my point of view and I don’t regret any of it. What AP does is so important. And it’s such an incredible family. Anywhere you land, there’s an AP bureau.”

When asked who’s influenced him the most in his career, he says the list is too long to recount. “But, early on, there’s a photographer who’s still with AP today—Ricardo Mazalán. He had a huge impact on me. He taught me what the purpose of an AP photographer is.” There are also the countless writers he’s worked with, including Tim Sullivan [AP’s Asia Correspondent]. Even more importantly, he says, there are the local photographers. “AP has photographers in Gaza, living the story. I’d go there as an outsider; it was always a story for me, no matter how important it was. AP has these people who live it. They work 365 days a year in that environment. When you show up, they take you under their wings. They are so street-smart and generous. Those kind of people—and they are everywhere at AP—those are the people that impacted my career and helped me the most.”

In June 2011, Guttenfelder helped create AP’s first bureau in Pyongyang, North Korea—a first for a Western news wire. “I’m very proud of what we achieved there,” he says. “We were the first to try it and we had no idea how it would go. It was a very unorthodox experiment that succeeded beyond all our expectations.”

At a toy store, I witnessed a common but ludicrous dynamic; a 4-year-old child was emotionally bullying his mother. The helpless mom repeatedly explained to her son that he was not getting a present because it was not his birthday - they were there to buy his friend a present. It was exhausting watching her quickly lose ground. The more the mother talked and explained, the more her little boy screamed, reaching a crescendo with a full-blown kicking and earsplitting tantrum on the floor. The scene upstaged the shoppers, and I was struck by how powerless the mother looked as she was taken down by her 4 year old. It used to be that kids were scared of their parents and now parents seem scared of their kids. The pendulum has swung from children being seen and not heard to being heard and perpetually indulged. Parents seem so uncomfortable with setting limits and taking their rightful position as captain of the family ship. Their hearts are in the right place; they want to be more attentive to their kids’ needs than their parents had been to theirs. But we have over corrected, turning into a generation of “parent pleasers,” rarely saying no for fear of hurting our children’s feelings. And as a result, putting a child to bed or leaving a toy store becomes an ordeal. It is unsafe for a child to have that much power; kids today are more demanding and more anxious. When parents are skittish about asserting their parental authority, too often kids learn that “no” means “maybe.” That gives kids wiggle room to keep negotiating, throwing fits and emotionally bullying their parents. This reinforces the bad behavior and fuels the notion that the louder they whine, the more they get. Push fast forward on a child who consistently throws tantrums and gets his way. What teacher would want to teach him, what employer would hire him, and who would want to date him? We have to be able to tolerate our children’s stormy emotions without rushing in to fix them or we are unintentionally crippling our kids. We are trying to grow resilient kids, not fragile, entitled ones. Buying another child a present teaches your child about doing for others, and that the world does not revolve around him. What great life lessons! Let’s remind ourselves that discipline actually means to teach, not to punish or shame, and that setting loving limits will help raise a thriving child. We can acknowledge and empathize with our children’s feelings but still hold the line: “I know you want a new toy, but we are not buying you one today.” Period. And if the child continues to have a tantrum, you have to leave the store. You need to do what is right for your children, even if it means tolerating a brief drop in your popularity polls. You are the one with experience and perspective - a perspective that children just don’t have. Your job is not to please your child; your job is to parent your child. We have to be able to hold a loving space for our child’s anger or hurt feelings while staying the course. So how did the toy store debacle end? The mom, drained and exhausted by her child’s tantrum was at the register, purchasing two toys – not realizing that the real gift would have been saying no! Robin Berman, MD, is a mother, psychiatrist, associate professor at UCLA and author of Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love & Limits.
David Guttenfelder—AP

This success is due, in no small part, to Guttenfelder’s use of Instagram, which allowed him to offer a behind-the-curtain look at the secluded, fascinating country. In turn, the photographer’s popularity on the image-sharing platform changed Guttenfelder’s views on the medium. “When I talk about innovation and a new environment in photography, the iPhone is a good example. I started using my phone in Afghanistan in 2010. In North Korea, it really opened my eyes to how powerful it could be to help me communicate with people.”

Guttenfelder won’t abandon his phone when at National Geographic. “It’s going to be a major part of the work I’ll be doing for them, and I have other plans coming up, as well.”

In the meantime, Guttenfelder is settling back in the U.S. with his family. “I’ve been on the road for 11 months a year for 20 years,” he explains when asked how he maintains a healthy balance between his personal and professional lives. “It’s very hard. It’s not an easy life at all. I think when a photographer decides to do this—especially to do it the way that I’ve done it—it’s not a simple decision. It has consumed my life. For many years, I thought I had two lives: one when I was away and one when I came home. It was hard to bridge the two.

“I say every year that I’m going to find better balance, but . . . I know I’m definitely not going to stop or ignore the stories and issues I’ve been working on all along. I’m going to have to struggle with finding balance in my life.”

Still, as Guttenfelder embarks on the second act in his photographic career, he remains hopeful. “I think this new experience will give me more time to dig a little deeper and approach things in a different way, which might give me more time and balance.”


David Guttenfelder is a freelance photographer and National Geographic fellow. In December 2013, he was named TIME’s Instagram Photographer of the Year.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

Mikko Takkunen is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com.


Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated David Guttenfelder’s birthplace.

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