In Nordic Noir, the new book by the photographer Sébastien Van Malleghem, the extreme landscapes and environments of Scandinavia become a means of expressing a sombre, poetic, and troubled inner world.
Accustomed to photographing the darker side of life (drug addicts, prison, the police, death in Mexico, the war in Libya), Brussels-born Sébastien Van Malleghem found himself, in the summer of 2012, staying on the charming little island of Halsnøy in the middle of the Norwegian fjords. The population is sparse. Calm and nature reign supreme.
What led him there was the desire to “do something other than reportage”. To escape in order to find himself. Scandinavia became the setting for a new way of understanding his work. “The North is just as extreme as the reportage projects I have done, but in a different way,” says the 31-year-old freelance photographer, winner of such international awards as the Lucas Dolega and the Nikon Monography Series Award.
Travelling the mountain roads of Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland in a four-by-four, Van Malleghem delves into the feelings that the vast empty spaces, snow-covered peaks, and misty lakes inspire in him to create his own personal road movie. This sombre black-and-white film expresses a sensibility that was just waiting to be released.
“I needed the time and the courage to be able to explore it,” explains Van Malleghem, confiding that he has always had “music, a world spinning” inside his head. With Van Malleghem, the Far North becomes fantasy, a reflection of his troubles. In two words: Nordic Noir.
The book is made up of grainy images relating an intimate journey into a world where time stands still. Here, on the nearly-deserted roads, the rare human specimen provides little comfort to the solitary traveller: a hunter with a detached and forbidding air, a gang of disgruntled teens, one of whom has stripped naked head-to-toe, an old man with a vacant and weary gaze.
And, in the black of night, a young blond woman, a siren who appears to constantly elude the photographer in a maddening game of hide-and-seek. For a traveller, forewarned is forearmed. One does not leave the Far North unscathed.
> Nordic Noir. André Frère Éditions, 136 p., €39,50