In George Orwell’s 1984, an unperson is someone who has been vaporized, whose record has been erased. Similarly, the North Korean defectors that Tim Franco portrays have decided to disappear, fleeing sometimes for ideological reasons and often out of despair.
The road to South Korea is dangerous and can take years, across the many different borders with Mongolia, Laos, Thailand and China. The travels of the people who do make it out are filled with the fear of being arrested and sent back to labour camps. Having arrived in South Korea, they often struggle to find a new identity; lost between their North Korean past and South Korean future.
To reflect this incredible transition, in documenting North Korean defectors photographer Tim Franco uses an analog material that is not supposed to exist: the negative of a polaroid revealed through a series of chemical purifications, resulting often in something uncertain and imperfect. In order to retrace the defector’s trails, Franco travelled to the crossing points where they made their escape, aiming to capture the diversity of landscape that is the background of North Korean defection.
Tim Franco is a French-Polish photographer born in Paris in 1982. In 2005, he moved to China where he started documenting the country’s incredible urbanization and its social impact while collaborating with newspapers such as Le Monde, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In 2015, he published his first Monograph - Metamorpolis - the conclusion of five years of work on the rural migrations in the fastest urbanizing city in the world: Chongqing. In 2016, Franco moved to South Korea where he started working on a long term project about North Korean defectors.