Eddo Hartmann's Photography: Chollima Steelworks

Koryo Studio arranged for Dutch photographer Eddo Hartmann to visit North Korea on four shooting trips between 2014 and 2017. This is his story of photographing the highlight of his trip the Chollima Steelworks.

Written by Eddo Hartmann

Chollima Steel factory DPRK

The Inspiration

Before I ever visited the DPRK, I had seen a lot of documentaries and films about this fascinating country.

Like in any communist system, the common “worker” plays a key role in the narrative. The Chollima Steelworks is a backdrop for some of the most legendary stories of the country. It’s the cradle of the “Chollima Campaign” which was a campaign to increase industrial productivity through worker power in the 1950s and 1960s.

When I started travelling through the country in 2014 for my photography project “Setting The Stage” obviously this location was high on my wish list. Unfortunately, it never seemed possible.

All the requests were denied for the usual incomprehensible reasons.

Gaining Access

I almost had forgotten about the place. However, unexpectedly, during my third visit in 2016, I finally got permission to see the plant during a rushed break between two other locations.

I was accompanied by two young ladies who were the most relaxed guides I ever worked with. At that time, I also became quite accustomed to the whole DPRK ritual of negotiation/visiting and photographing sites.

Chollima Steelworks by Eddo Hartmann

Limited edition Chollima Steelwork 40 x 50 cm prints.
All are signed by the photographer.
350 EUR.

Chollima Steel factory DPRK

Size: 40×50 cm
Artist: N/A
ID: PT100

Pyongyang Film studio

Size: 40×50 cm
Artist: N/A
ID: PT101

Chollima Steel factory DPRK

Size: 40×50 cm
Artist: N/A
ID: PT102

Chollima Steel factory DPRK

Size: 40×50 cm
Artist: N/A
ID: PT103

Chollima Steel factory DPRK

Size: 40×50 cm
Artist: N/A
ID: PT104

Chollima Steel factory DPRK

Size: 40×50 cm
Artist: N/A
ID: PT105

Chollima Steel factory DPRK

Size: 40×50 cm
Artist: N/A
ID: PT106

Visiting the Chollima Steelworks

The Chollima Steelworks is an impressive complex with huge boulevards, railroads, grand propaganda murals and big industrial buildings. At the time, I had two Leica cameras with me and the moment my minders gave me the official “go” I went snapping away.

The highlight was the main production floor we had to enter through a cavernous hallway. Flames, smoke and a shower of sparks erupted when I passed one of the furnaces. I felt the heat and had a burning sensation on my arms and face.

Only then I realised it also was quite a dangerous place to be.

After a few minutes, I heard my guides already screaming that I had to stop. Fortunately, they were quite reluctant to make their clothes dirty so they did not fancy running after me which gave me some more minutes to penetrate deeper into the facility.

But not before long I was pushed back by some attentive official jumping from behind one of the pillars and I had to put my camera’s away.

Returning to North Korea

I returned to the DPRK one year later. Although It was a great adventure to work there again, I was far more restricted in everything I wanted to do.

Apparently, due to the shifting political situation at the time, the guides were extremely strict and the country felt more secluded than I ever had experienced. Although I was able to shoot some interesting images, the work never matched the quality I had achieved at the earlier sessions.

So, I decided not to return any more.

Koryo Studio is pleased to offer a limited edition sale of 10 prints at a cost of 350 EUR. The prints are 40 x 50 cm and printed on Hahnemuhle Baryta semigloss paper. All photographs are signed by the photographer on the reverse.

Above Chollima Steelworks Prints are available for sale.
Please inquire with us about availability.

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