Xiomara Bender

Under the title "25 MILLION. NORTH KOREA. THE POWER OF DREAMS.", the Leica Gallery Düsseldorf presents works by Leica photographer Xiomara Bender, providing impressive insights into the unknown country of North Korea.

Like few other Western photographers, Xiomara Bender has managed to travel to and document the hermetically sealed country of North Korea multiple times over the last ten years. While the first trip had to follow a predetermined dramaturgy of a state-organized tour, she succeeded in later visits, driven by ambitious curiosity, to deviate from prescribed routes. She aimed to form her own opinion of the seemingly faceless country, to uncover the true stories behind a carefully constructed facade - stories of worries and fears, of wishes and longings, of individual happiness as opposed to collective bliss.

"I believe that only where anonymity is dispelled, empathy can arise. Those who feel are less susceptible to the prejudices that still shape our perception of North Korea. The world is not black and white, not even in North Korea," says Xiomara Bender. "The noble claim to faithfully reflect the environment seems almost anachronistic in view of what is disseminated through all the channels and platforms that the digital world provides for distribution, and yet is all the more relevant. The more opaque the world, the greater the tendency for simplification."

The exhibition "25 MILLION. NORTH KOREA. THE POWER OF DREAMS." offers visitors of the Leica Gallery Düsseldorf unparalleled and impressive insights behind the scenes of a sometimes surreal staging of a country that is often described in the media as a mix of nuclear hysteria and mass-psychotic monotony. In this project, Xiomara Bender put particular emphasis on conveying through her photographs the level of proximity to the people she portrayed in their daily lives, sparking curiosity fueled by empathy in the viewers. "The people of North Korea live with dignity and survive through the power of their dreams. Their faces tell those stories that bring us closer to a country whose people deserve undivided attention and unbiased sympathy," says Xiomara Bender about the people living in North Korea and her work as a photographer. "In order to recognize and document change, the camera is often the only tool in a country whose leadership does not welcome outside scrutiny and for which the rest of the political world is not really interested in the condition of its people," Bender adds. She last visited North Korea in September 2019 on the occasion of the 71st anniversary of the country's founding. Some of the exhibition's images are from this visit and they will be shown for the first time at the Leica Gallery Düsseldorf. Accompanying the exhibition, her new book "Waiting for the Rainbow, 10 Years in North Korea" will be published in May 2024 by teNeues.

About Xiomara Bender

The German-Swiss photographer was born in Basel in 1987, left her homeland at the age of 17 and moved to India to complete her schooling. She then attended the Technical Art School in Berlin. Since graduating, she has worked as a freelance photographer. Numerous national and international awards, such as the C/O Berlin Foundation's "Close Up!" and the International Photography Award, have already recognized her distinctive visual language early in her career. In 2016, her book "North Korea. The Power of Dreams" was published by Kehrer Verlag, winning the Silver German Photobook Prize 2018 from the Hochschule der Medien. The series has been exhibited in numerous galleries. Her works have appeared in publications such as "Stern" and "Zeit."

The exhibition "25 MILLION. NORTH KOREA. THE POWER OF DREAMS." will be on display at the Leica Gallery Düsseldorf in the KÖ Galerie (Königsallee 60) from March 15 to June 1, 2024, Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission is free.

Virtueller Rundgang

15/03/2024 - 01/06/2024