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ANNEMOR LARSEN

Annemor Larsen b. 1966 in Sweden.

Her family moved to Norway when she was seven. Already at thirteen years she started experimenting with photography. The local newspaper soon became her second home. After studying radio-journalism and photo-journalism, she found her way into the national newspapers in Akersgata in Oslo, and was hired as a staff photographer for the national daily newspaper VG/ Verdens Gang in 1990. Photography gave her the ticket to explore the world, covering stories from the Tsjernobyl-aftermath in former Sovjet-Union, to social issues in the former east block countries, abortion in Ireland, and sports and news features in China and Africa, while continuing to cover daily national news at home. Combining her photographic career with raising three children, she then spent several years contributing as an editorial illustrator, picture editor and food-photographer. Additional studies in film (2011) and journalism (2016) fuelled her interest for multimedia stories and enabled her ability to work cross platform for the numerous publishing outputs that VG’s media house offer. In 2016 and 2017 she visited North Korea three times for the newspaper, making her the only Norwegian newspaper photographer to have documented this much of the country. This has offered Annemor a unique opportunity to build knowledge and expertise from the world's most secluded country.

 

She was awarded two 1st- and one 3rd- prize in the Picture of the Year competition in Norway, 2017, one of them, “The other side of a tree” is presented here.

THE DOWNSIDE OF A TREE -on deforestation in North Korea

 

A tree has just as much of its body under the surface as over. The root system collects water and binds the soil.

But also competes with small, edible plants. Deforestation is an evil sircle. Under heavy blockade from the international community and with its self-reliance state ideology (Juche) the North Koreans work hard for their food supply.  For every new mouth to feed they need more farmland. A tree that don't produce fruit will risk to lose the fight for fertile soil. The wood is chopped for heating and the land is cleaned to grow vegetables. Then the rain runs faster and stronger to the rivers, risking to flood the land and ruin the crop. In a country where 80 percent of the people have a vulnerable and insecure food supply, this can be devastating. In the mid 90's between 2 and 3,5 million people lost their lives in famine. The North Korean authorities refer to it as the arduous march.

1. Prize News reportage Norway: “ When she met she” a story about a controversial same-sex marriage in the Norwegian church.

1. Prize Climate and environment:  “The other side of a tree” a story on the causes and  effects of deforestation in North Korea.

3. Prize News reportage foreign affairs: “Juche 106” a story from Pyongyang with the dark backdrop of the North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile tests, American military drills on the border, the mystic death of Kim Jong Uns half-brother and the hazardous brinkmanship between North Korea and USA.

 

 

Annemor Larsen f. 1966 i Sverige.

Familien flyttet til Ullensaker i Norge da hun var syv og hun begynte å eksperimentere med fotografering da hun var 13. Den lokale avisredaksjonen ble raskt hennes andre hjem. Etter å ha studert radiojournalistikk og fotojournalistikk fant hun veien inn i de riksdekkende avisene i Akersgata i Oslo. I 1990 ble hun fast ansatt i VGs fotoavdeling. Fotojournalistikken ga henne muligheten til å se verden og hun dekket historier som ettervirkningene av Tsjernobyl, sosiale kår i de gamle østblokklandene, abortstriden i Irland, sports features og nyheter fra Kina til Afrika, mellom den  daglige jobbingen med store og små nyheter i Norge. For å kunne kombinere arbeidet i VG med familielivet med mann og tre barn jobbet hun etterhvert mer med featurestoff, vikarierte som bildesjef, leverte redaksjonelle illustrasjoner og matfotografering.

Tilleggsstudier i film (2011) og journalistikk (2016) vekket interessen for multimediale historier og bidro til at hun kunne jobbe på tvers av avdelingene for de etterhvert mange publiseringsplattformene i VGs mediehus.
I 2016 og 2017 besøkte hun Nord Korea tre ganger for VG, og er dermed den norske avis-fotografen som har sett mest av landet. Det har gitt henne en unik mulighet til å skaffe innsikt og kompetanse i verdens mest lukkede land. I 2017 fikk hun to førstepriser og en tredjepris i Årets Bilde i 2017, to av prisene gikk til hennes prosjekter fra Nord Korea. Ett av dem, om avskogingen i Nord Korea er presentert her.

** Click on image to view its full size.

Winter is coming. He can't wait to taste, the man that picks the sweet persimmon left out on the naked tree. It is filled with nutritious fruit sugar and vitamin C. 

The authorities runs campaigns to inspire the people to plant new trees to bind the soil. Propaganda posters like this can be seen along the road in the rural areas between Pyongyang and Hamhung. 

The area near the river is prepared.  Hopefully to plant trees, or to give it a flood-barrier of rocks. But most likely, to grow more food.

A truck boils over in the dirt road outside Pyongyang. Expensive fuel and difficulties with spare parts makes the national food distribution system ineffective.  70% of the population, including the entire urban population are depending on a public distribution system (PDS). According to UN, rations are systematically under standards of 573 grams per day per person.

They are not privileged city people. They are workers with faces marked by the sun. The duty to feed their country is rough, but sometimes one can find a moment to rest in the field. The World Food Program reports that although agricultural production has increased slightly, the country does not have enough production to feed the entire North Korean population.

To report from North-Korea feels like a riddle. Heavy restrictions are put upon photographers, sometimes you dare to ask about what you caught on camera, other times you pass in silence, afraid of being told to delete your picture. What is the woman doing in the tree? Is she hungry, looking for a forgotten fruit? Or is she just a playful mother helping her boys to find the best branch for an arrow.  I loved this picture so much I never dared to ask.

Rivers run through the flat land carving up the soft and muddy banks. A man picks up his fishing net. Riverfish is one of many traditional Korean dishes.

His face lights up when he finds a straw of corn in the field. Numerous kids are out collecting the remains after the crop. There is an official campaign going on to make sure every resource is being used: - Don't let anything be wasted. Perhaps these kids are collecting seeds for next years season? The official Juche Ideology means in short: Self Reliance. 

North Korea isn't particularly suitable for agriculture. Only a small fifth is arable land, the season is short and the machine-park is lacking spare parts. The ox is an important resource for the farmer who needs to work hard to keep his living tractor healthy and strong.

Can North Korea - threatened by flooding and drought, isolated, sanctioned, with an ineffective agriculture, a depleted soil and an insecure fertilizer supply ever escape the ghosts of the hunger catastrophe in the mid 90's?