This special discovery reminds me of the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
This was bound to happen at some point—and unsurprisingly it took a collector to make it happen: Petr Doubrava recently discovered a trove of old photographs of 1950s North Korea in a “dusty” antique shop he frequents in Pardubice, Czech Republic. These images of everyday village life under Kim il Sung (grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un) are extremely rare because of the strict image control that the current DPRK regime adheres to:
I point out the fact that these photos were unearthed by a collector precisely because of the naive and growing dissent towards art collectors from within the arts. Independent, interested, and unaffiliated individuals who roam the streets of small towns and forgotten shops while sometimes uncovering lost art and documentation rarely receive the credit they deserve from society. While many art collectors certainly are in it “for the money,” there are also plenty who do not need to be on a payroll at a museum or gallery in order to contribute to our culture and collective memory. (Come to think of it, I cannot recall the last time I read about a well known Western arts figure who has done something like this.)
Not all collecting is as exciting as Doubrava’s experience with these photos, but this kind of discovery is what makes collecting an integral, and necessary, part of the arts. We are fortunate that people still care enough to unearth and share findings like this from the past. This makes one wonder how many incredible pieces around the world—whether photos, paintings, sculptures, artifacts, etc.—are still hidden from the public eye, just waiting to be found.