Imagine being an artist, being so passionate about your creations, so enslaved to your Muse ... but the only art you can create is what the government tells you to.
Sun Mu was born in North Korea and spent years as a propaganda artist for Pyongyang before he finally escaped and defected to the south. His current location is something of a secret, but we had the chance to visit him in his studio while I was in South Korea.
Sun Mu's creations now focus on his hope of reunification and freedom for the country of his birth.
On entering Sun Mu's studio, I was struck by how much of a kindred spirit he seemed. When I told him (through a translator) that this paining of a young woman and little girl was my favorite of all his work, he told me it was a painting of his wife and two daughters.
I think what really struck me about Sun Mu's work was how hopeful his images were. I didn't get a chance to photograph them all (the photos included here are posted with Sun Mu's permission), but there was such an optimistic feel behind his paintings.
That hopefulness and optimism, however, was tempered with the reality that things in his homeland are far from ideal.
Many of his images are of children, and he told me he is always thinking about his daughters (now in South Korea) when he paints kids.
Through our translator, we were able to have a very inspiring discussion about art and its power to encourage, inspire, and implement social change.
Although it's not safe for Sun Mu to show his face in photographs, he was so gracious to let us take our picture with him. His documentary, "I Am Sun Mu" is currently available to screen on Netflix.