Perhaps the Most Striking Photo Taken in North Korea Last Year

Amongst the newly announced winners of the 2012 World Press Photo Contest, you'll find spectacular images from last year's most shocking news events. But some of the most stirring photos are solemn and sober, like this photo, taken in the North Korean capital Pyongyang just two months before the sudden death of Kim Jong-il.

Taken by Bosnian photographer Damir Sagolj with a 5D Mark II on October 5th, the photo is as beautiful as it is eerie—the illuminated, Big Brother-like portrait of Kim Il-sung (Kim Jong-il's father and predecessor) looms as the sole source of light in photo. It's as if all of the energy contained in the drab buildings framing the portrait had been sacrificed to ensure that the departed leader's face would shine in light forever.

Perhaps the Most Striking Photo Taken in North Korea Last Year

It's possible that everyone is asleep. The photo was taken early in the morning, just before, as Sagolj puts it, "the revolutionary songs and propaganda speeches from loudspeakers wake the city up." But the grimmer reality is that in much of North Korea there is simply is no power to make the windows shine. While North Korea has made some progress in improving its electrical infrastructure, much of the country remains without power at night. The image to the left is generated from a satellite data that's nearly twenty years old, and current data indicates that the situation remains mostly the same. Sagolj's gorgeous photo is a close-up to the satellite's long, establishing shot.

The aerial perspective only contributes to the surreal effect of Sagolj's photo. It's almost like he could sense trouble on the horizon. I have no idea what was going through his head when he took this photo, but I suspect that as with all great news photography, the undoctored-reality recorded by the camera's image sensor says more than Sagolj intended.

Head over to World Press Photo to see more prize-winning photos taken in during last year's earth-shaking events in Japan, Egypt, Libya, and more. [World Press Photo and MSNBC]

Image via Damir Sagolj/Reuters