First edition. Oblong 8vo. 144pp., in the original paper covered, laminated boards, profusely illustrated in b&w with text in French. Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1959.
For one week in 1957, Chris Marker was part of a small delegation of journalists invited to visit North Korea. Coréennes or ‘Korean Women’ contains over 120 photogravures from this trip combined with poetry, ancient maps, Korean tales and legends, comic book images and even anecdotes about the properties of ginseng. Marker’s portraits show an open view of everyday life in North Korea four years after a devastating war and shortly before the border was closed off. The book also includes an extensive commentary examining Franco-Korean history and describing personal encounters behind the photographs. As Catherine Lupton puts it: “Coréennes is a testament to Marker’s abiding fascination with human encounters and his desire to push away the constraints of political and racial stereotyping”. Marker was a passionate anti-imperialist, already established and controversial in France for his 1953 essay film Statues Also Die co-directed with Alain Resnais, examining colonial perceptions of African art. With Coréennes, Marker’s treatment of the book object would match that of his careful orchestration of a film narrative, an approach exemplified in his most famous work La Jetée (1962) composed almost entirely from still images. Coréennes is presented as a ‘Court métrage’ or ‘short film’ in 7 chapters. Here page layouts feel as seamlessly sequenced as film frames: we see the bustle of a marketplace, couples dancing, or the expressive gestures of a woman telling her life story in a chain of images moving across four pages. Coréennes tells us in its commentary that ‘there are many ways of traveling’ and its chapters crafted as short films feel very much like small journeys.