Photographer Maria Helena Markkula at Arkadia in December

Dear friend of Arkadia,


This month the bookshop will exhibit the photographical works of Maria Helena Markkula . She took those photographs while traveling through North Korea. They are beautiful and reveal much about that seldom visited country. But please do come and see for yourself!


Warm regards,




Here are Maria Helena’s thoughts on her travels to Korea and her brief biography:


“There are two ways to get to North Korea, at least for Westerners, and that’s by plane or train from Beijing. We took the train, as we heard that it’s the only opportunity you’ll get to see and photograph the country and talk to the locals without someone supervising your every move.


Tourists cannot travel alone in North Korea, and we had two guides and one driver accompanying us the whole time. Our journey was extremely stressful, but at the same time one of the most incredible and memorable journeys we’ve ever experienced.


Our guides met us at the Pyongyang train station, and we were immediately told that we cannot take pictures of people, buildings, scenery or anything else for that matter without first asking their permission. As we both have poor memory, and bad hearing, we didn’t always remember to ask permission or hear their orders.


Tourists are shown a very narrow and staged picture of the country, but you do get an idea of what lies behind the facade. You see the hate, fear, and distrust in children’s eyes when they look at you, a Western tourist, and you begin to wonder what they’re taught about the Western world. You see the exhaustion and lack of joy in people passing you by, and that so many dare not look you in the eye.


You see 100,000 people performing in the Arirang Mass Games, but hardly a soul when traveling from one city to the next. You see empty freeways and empty buildings, but you turn the next corner, and see thousands of people practicing for the Independence Day parade.


This small selection of photos hopefully conveys what we experienced in North Korea.




I spent my childhood in Canada, grew up in Finland, was educated in Europe, travel mainly in Southeast Asia, and live with the most wonderful person in the world, Jukka.


I wasn’t interested in photography when I was younger, probably because everyone else in the family was. I’ve always been interested in people, though, and about ten years ago I realized that I could take pictures of them in addition to just staring at them.


Personally, I like black and white photos, and I’m more interested in what’s being photographed, and not how something is being photographed.


Photography isn’t my day job, unfortunately, but hopefully some day  it will be. Or maybe writing. Or maybe both.