POLICE

Belgium 2008 - 2012 / Reportage and text by Sébastien Van Malleghem

They are talking about it TIME and NY TIMES

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 The crowd is delirious during the Ducasse of Mons. Policemen on duty are wearing their old uniform holding the pushing crowd. Belgium on June 2011.

The crowd is delirious during the Ducasse of Mons. Policemen on duty are wearing their old uniform holding the pushing crowd. Belgium on June 2011.

 

Coughed up out of the throat, a part of the family.

It takes many years to be a part of a family. Maybe that’s the photographer's job: to blend in. I took my first pictures in 2006 in a police station in a posh area of Brussels during two years.

The first policemen I met helped me understand their job, their vision of the law and the on the field enforcement. During the first month there was a cold distance between them and me, but everybody was friendly. “Normal” anybody would think; “these are policemen” they are not going to fool around with an unknown photographer.

Exactly what I wanted to achieve.

 
 Interrogation of a young lady in the police station of Uccle. Brussels on March 2008.

Interrogation of a young lady in the police station of Uccle. Brussels on March 2008.

I spent dozens of nights during three years  to find out what it was really like underneath the uniform. Beyond the paperwork, beyond the scary word“authority”, underneath the bullet proof vests.

I met young and old policemen and women, from every social classes, from all around the country passionate or not about their job, bored or concerned, motivated and calm. We shared moments in the back of the police cars talking of cop stories and citizen ones, while driving through the sleepy cities. The Police are like a buffer in an emergency, trying to calm down the situation. Police is a word that you utter when you are in a deep shit situation, when you don’t have your friends or your family to help you out. The people in the pictures could be me, you, your friend, anybody because this is what happens every night and every day in every city around the world.

 Portrait of a suspect in a police car, during a control of the police on his vehicle, Brussels, Belgium on may 2010.

Portrait of a suspect in a police car, during a control of the police on his vehicle, Brussels, Belgium on may 2010.

The policemen and me became friends, maybe because I was there all the time. Even if it was a quiet night, I stayed with them to understand the boring nights. I wanted to “feel” their job, and every angle of it. In the end, the policemen are the best guides to a city. They know everybody, every street and every movement of the society. I remember some smalltalk like “Ok… it’s Saturday night it’s gonna boil over in that area…” or “full moon ? bad night”. 

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 suicide scene in appartement,  north of Brussels, Molembeek. Belgium on February 2009.

suicide scene in appartement,  north of Brussels, Molembeek. Belgium on February 2009.

We came across boulevards, buildings, fast foods, hospitals, creepy streets and beautiful houses. We were all the time in contact with the gritty underbelly of the Belgian cities.
And the facts are sad: citizens are constantly under-pressure because of their jobs, of their family problems, money, drugged by the advertising of the world and in the end they are lost and alone. Mentally washed and burned out.

 suspect inside a cell. Nivelles, Belgium on May 2010.

suspect inside a cell. Nivelles, Belgium on May 2010.

 An old women is alive and lying on the floor of her flat in Molembeek. The cops were called for a non response old women, she felt from her chair, and couldn't wake up. Belgium on February 2010.

An old women is alive and lying on the floor of her flat in Molembeek. The cops were called for a non response old women, she felt from her chair, and couldn't wake up. Belgium on February 2010.

Lots of the citizens are victims of alcoholism, take drugs to liven up or to forget our own lives. In the end we try to survive.

 Body search of a suspect by the civilian branch of the police, in the police station of Brussels North. Belgium on April 2010.

Body search of a suspect by the civilian branch of the police, in the police station of Brussels North. Belgium on April 2010.

Directed and filmed by Sebastien Van Malleghem Video Editing: Antoine Castro

Belonging to a family is the key to bear the sadness of these moments of emergency. Policemen are a really strong family they help, listen and share everything; the only way to stay strong, the only way to face the loneliness of their lives is being a part of the family.

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