In George Orwell’s 1984, an unperson is someone who has been vaporized, whose record has been erased. Similarly, the North Korean defectors that Tim Franco chose to portray have decided to disappear, fleeing sometimes for ideological reasons and often out of despair. 

To reflect this incredible transition, Tim Franco used an analog material that is not supposed to exist: the negative of a polaroid reveals through a series of chemical purifications, resulting often in something uncertain, dirty and imperfect. Each portrait goes side by side with the story of how and why the subjects came to this radical decision. In order to retrace their trails, Franco travelled to the crossing points, aiming to capture the diversity of landscape that is the background of North Korean defection.




galerie Sit Down

06.02.23 – 07.29.23


Tim Franco is a French-Polish photographer born in Paris in 1982.

In 2005, he moved to China where he began documenting the country’s incredible urbanisation and its social impact while collaborating with newspapers such as Le Monde, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
In 2015, he published his first monograph – Metamorpolis – the conclusion of five years of work on rural migration in the world’s most rapidly urbanising city: Chongqing.
It was at this time that Tim developed his style, using mainly film photography with a minimalist aesthetic. While applying these principles, he also focuses on portraits.
Experimenting with different analogue processes, he aims to give a voice to underrepresented communities.
In 2016, Tim Franco moved to South Korea where he began his long-term project on North Korean defectors.



Tim Franco Arctic Fishing, Revue Epic, volume #1, january-march 2021

Alex Kahl, “Photographic portraits of 15 of North Korean who fled to Seoul“, WePresent, 3 march 2021

Nicolas Rocca, “Entretien. Photographie : “UnPerson“ ou le départ de la Corée du Nord“, RFI, 18 april 2021

“Portraits of North Korean Defectors“, Artdoc Magazine, n°3, 2021


Lou Tsatsas, “Unperson par Tim Franco – Portraits de défecteurs fuyant la Corée du Nord“, Fisheye, 2020

Cyrielle Gendron, “Unperson, le nouveau livre de Tim Franco se lance sur Ulule“, PHOTO, 11 november 2020

“Unperson by Tim Franco“, All about Photo, deecember 2020

“Photographing the “Unpersons“ from North Korea“, NK-News, Podcast, Ep. 160, december 2020


Alexandra Genova, “Telling the Stories of Defectors From North Korea“, The New York Times, 2 april 2018


Brent Crane, “Photographer Documents the Rapid Development of Chongqing, a 21st Century Megacity“, Feature shoot, 10 avril 2015

Pauline Eiferman, “Metamorpolis : Q&A with Tim Franco“, Roads & Kingdoms, 6 april 2015

Thierry R., “L’incroyable métamorphose de Chongqing : quand la nature laisse place aux buildings“, Lense, 2015


François Bougon, “Chongqing, capitale de l’ouest chinois“, Le Monde, 28 september 2012