For twenty years, David Guttenfelder traveled the world, from Rwanda to Kosovo to Afghanistan, often photographing tragedy and war. While working as the roving Asia photographer for The Associated Press, he became the first western photojournalist to gain regular access to North Korea. He explored the isolated country over the following years, doing news reports, and by working with his mobile phone, was able to add a visual record of everyday life. His work appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world, making him one of the most respected news photographers in the industry.

In all those years, Guttenfelder seldom had a direct conversation with his audience, connecting and publishing his photographs through the traditional gatekeepers of information. That changed when he joined Instagram in 2012. He was intrigued by the app’s potential to redefine the way photography was created, shared and experienced; and he was frustrated to see photojournalists on the sidelines of what he imagined to be a visual revolution, one that would lead to the democratization of photography. Guttenfelder (@dguttenfelder) embraced the change. For the first time in his career, he found himself interacting directly with a community that not only followed him into the field, but was committed to his way of seeing the world.

More importantly, Instagram became a medium for Guttenfelder to share images that might not have been shown anywhere else; seemingly non‑newsworthy photographs of his travels and experiences of different civilizations and cultures. He embraced the vernacular nature of the platform, sharing photographs of scenes of everyday life and of ordinary objects he came across in North Korea. Together, the images were the pieces of a puzzle which, when together on his Instagram feed (and on the @everydaydprk account), offered an unrivaled visual record of North Korean society with a behind-the-curtain view of the isolated nation.

After twenty years abroad, David Guttenfelder moved back to the United States as a National Geographic (@natgeo) Fellow. Now a stranger in his own homeland, he is using the same photographic approach as in North Korea, but this time to rediscover his own country. And his ever-expanding Instagram audience has followed him (plus the @everydayusa account), exploring things both familiar and extraordinary as he captures the essence of American life and American civilization in hundreds of square images.

Olivier Laurent

David Guttenfelder

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