North Korea is a fairly closed country. Travelling there is limited, and if, only with licenced agencies. Entry to journalists and professional photographers is usually not allowed.
3DPRK project by Matjaž Tančič is one of those really rare insights into North Korea. It allows us to actually see how the life of ordinary North Korean citizens looks like through the lenses of an amazing photographer. Created in collaboration between Matjaž Tančič and Koryo Studio, 3DPRK is not only about amazing photographs: of the frame of each picture is a supporting cast of producers, translators, advisors, bosses, managers and guides – describing the technique, explaining the intent, collecting information, cracking jokes and suggesting staging. These moments are recorded in a documentary video that accompanies the exhibition. In his brief visit to North Korea he made over 100 3D portraits.
Exhibition has premierly been set up this summer in Ljubljana, Slovenia. After that it went on to North Korea. I was able to visit it only in Beijing, in Pekin Fine Arts gallery. And it was worth it.
Due to its lenghth and age Chinese wall is not fully restored or in excellent shape. However, most recent spectacular photos of great wall are taken in the area of Jiankou Great Wall. This is due to its unique style, steep mountains and beautiful scenery. ‘Jiankou’, is translated as ‘Arrow Nock’ in English, because the shape of the mountain is like an arrow, with the collapsed ridge opening as its arrow nock. Located in the mountain ridge of Xizhazi Village, about 19 miles (30km) to Huairou County in Beijing, Arrow Nock was an important section of the wall in Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Owing to the need for renovation, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous sections of the Ming’s wall. It connects to Mutianyu in the east and joins Huanghuacheng in the west. From east to north, the wall zigzags almost 16km from ‘The Ox Horn Edge Wall’ to ‘The Nine-Eye Tower’ via ‘The Beijing Knot’.
Our goal for today was to walk very short part of the great wall from the Nine Eyes tower to the so called Beijing knot. This is relatively undemanding part, but still it is a looping walk over steep and rocky terrain.
The start of the trek was village Xizhazi. Without Samo who already walked this path, i would be unable to find the path. We immediately started climbing through bushes and later through forest and eventually came to the ridge to Er Dao Bian Tower, the start of the Nine-Eyes tower loop. Er Dao Bian roughly translates as ‘Two Roads On Each Side,’ and at this point in the hike we’ll be at approximately 900m above sea level. From there very steep path leads upwards, first over the rocks which remained from the wall, and later one has to scramble around the remnants of the wall… But… on at almost 1200m above sea level suddenly Nine Eyes Tower comes into the view. In its original condition it had three levels, and the lower level had nine windows on each side. It would have been an impressive sight, and still is to some extent. It has been restored – the floor of the third level is now the roof, and the interior is very spacious compared to other towers in the area. Actually when you arrive to the tower, massive reconstruction of the wall has already been made on the other side. And you can really imagine why such a large building has been build on this hill – there are excellent views on all sides, and even Beijing and its skyscrapers could be seen on a nice and non-smoggy day.
Due to its openess, there was a really strong wind on the top. We go down a bit to find our way back to the ridge and to Er Dao Bian tower. Just 500m further workers are restoring the wall, but with some difficulties we finally find our path – and we get lost only once more Sooner or later we arrive to Er Dao Bian tower. For me the highlight of the day starts here – following the wall south towards the Beijing Knot section, passing around and over ten towers on a stretch of wall known locally as the ‘Big West Wall’. The first four towers are not in the best condition, and the trail we take sometimes skirts around sections that are too steep or too broken to walk on, but the rest of the walk is nice on the wall… The views are really great from here and one can admire where they have build the wall (and how high it is!). At the tenth tower, just below the Beijing Knot, we leave the wall and follow a trail back to Xizhazi village…
But the wall doesn’t end here… ‘The Beijing Knot’ is the meeting point for three walls coming from different directions. ‘The Sky Stair’, is a precipitous stair whose angle of elevation is 70 to 80 degrees. It leads to ‘The Eagle Flies Facing Upward’, a watch tower built on the lofty peaks. It is so dangerous that even eagles have to fly facing upward to reach the top. Incredible scenery. Due to the terrain and lack of solid footing this is almost impassable from this part of the wall…