A Paramount Theater Exclusive Interview with National Geographic Live’s David Guttenfelder

Check out our exclusive interview with National Geographic Photographer, David Guttenfelder. Cuba, North Korea, and Iraq only name a few of the destinations David has traveled to take photos of intensely beautiful people and places. He joins us live on stage at The Paramount Friday, February 8th. CLICK HERE to purchase your tickets now.

Keep reading for more about David’s travels and photos.

Q: According to your website, you have traveled to nearly 100 different countries around the world. Which country was your favorite and why?

A: “If it’s possible to choose a favorite country, I’d have to say mine is Tanzania. When I was a young University student (at that point I had never traveled anywhere outside of the United States), I spent a year as an exchange student in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar Island studying Swahili language. I spent the most formative time of life among some of the most generous and energetic people I will ever know. During that year in east Africa, I learned how to step outside of my own culture and experience and the type of the tenacity and sacrifice required. It made me want to travel the world and become a photographer and storyteller.”

Q: Your photos are intensely beautiful and speak louder than words, but if you had to put one photograph into words, which photograph would it be and what would it say?

A: “She was wearing a fur-collared coat, standing at an opaque office window to stare at Pyongyang’s cold winter weather outside. Light fell on a tank of goldfish swimming around a seashell.”

“Most of us know very little about North Korea and its people. Part of the reason we know so little is that relatively few photographs have ever been made inside the otherwise-isolated country.”

“During my travels to North Korea, now nearly 40 times over the past 18 years, I’ve tried to photograph everything I could see around me. Important news, mass propaganda spectacles, the country’s leaders, the ordinary daily lives of people, ephemera, historical sites, landscapes and architecture, even my uneasy personal life there. Every photograph was one piece of a complicated, sometimes surreal or melancholy puzzle.”

“The most important photographs I made were of simple fleeting moments inside North Korean people’s offices or homes. These were rare chances to look into one another’s eyes. Despite all of the geopolitical tensions and hostilities, there are real people with real lives worthy of our understanding.”

Q: What do you have to do to mentally prepare for your journeys?

A: “I try to prepare to be completely open and to go deep, giving into everything around me while I’m traveling and photographing.  What that really means, is preparing to temporarily suspend your life back home.”

Q: How many photos do you have to take to get the one you want?

A: “Honestly, its always different. Sometimes I see a moment, react immediately, and shoot a single picture. Other times I may shoot hundreds, or even a few thousand pictures of a given situation or event. A National Geographic, we are required to submit every photo we shoot while on assignment for our editors to consider. Consequently, I might make, and submit 30,000 images to be distilled down to 20 for publication.”