Mass games are regularly performed in North Korea, where they take place to celebrate national holidays such as the birthdays of rulers Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. In recent years, they have been the main attraction of the Arirang Festival in Pyongyang.
Mass games or mass gymnastics are a form of performing arts or gymnastics in which large numbers of performers take part in a highly regimented performance that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess. The effect of displaying huge images is achieved by having a large number of performers, each dressed in a particular color or holding a sheet of colored cardboard above their head.
Photographer Sam Gellman recently went for a 4-day trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea where he was able to witness and photograph the Mass Games in Pyongyang.
The Mass Games are a meticulously regimented display of gymnastics and other performing arts by nearly 100,000 participants, heavily laden with messages of state-sponsored propaganda. Perhaps the most incredible sight is that of the colorful backdrops consisting of thousands of perfectly placed children who sequentially flip through pieces of paper, creating staggering pictures of flags, horses, and slogans. Ten drunk sports fans with a team name written on their chests this is not. Gellman says on one of the images:
This shot was taken at the Mass Games, a propaganda-filled 100,000 person choreographed performance of simultaneous dancing and gymnastics on the field of Pyongyang’s May Day stadium. The image in the background of the horse is made up of 20,000 “pixels” which are constantly being changed into new images, each pixel by a different Korean kid. Each time they turn the page to create a new giant picture, they cry out, mixing the shout with the noise of thousands of pages turned at the same moment.