Sébastien Van Malleghem – Nordic Noir

Sébastien Van Malleghem

Nordic Noir

An artistic residence in Norway (Halsnoy Cloister, 2013) ignites a passion with the North. Iceland, then Scandinavia further fuels the flame, revealing a personal confrontation with an endless space, a passionate and brutal encounter.

Captivated by the Scandinavian lands from a residence in Norway, Sébastien Van Malleghem has since advanced his travels from Denmark to Iceland, passing through Finland and Sweden. Nordic Noir is the visual recital of this contrasting trek. With breath-taking and timeless landscapes, scenes of life and harsh portraits, the series is closer to a constellation than a linear path. In the explosion of emotions that is the series, the photographer finds the right balance between the sublime and the banal, between the grandiose and the intimate. Leaning towards reverie in this work, Sébastien Van Malleghem’s eye remains sharp and keen; just as well when the scenery lends itself to pure contemplation, to the exhilaration of large spaces, to the experience of solitude where he captures a carefree and unbridled youthfulness that lays itself unreservedly open in front of the lens.


Sébastien, i know for you this has been a deep personal project, a sort of “personal long love story” as you described it, so i want to know more what keeps you close to this work and how you see it after years. The way you are looking at it has changed?

No, not at all. Nordic Noir, made me look deeper. That work I started in 2012 gave me the guts to do what I love to do and to believe in it. So far, making these photographs made me extremely happy and more confident. I didn’t change my way to look at the world, that work didn’t change it either, at the opposite: it confirmed it.

And are the pictures telling new things to you after years? I mean are they showing some secondary layer you didn’t see at the time?

I don’t think so, everything became clear when I looked at the book and when we made it.  If my photographs would mean something new, it would just be my mind going in different mood looking at them, but I know their origin and what surrounds them – when I made them, why I made them, and how I presented them. Nordic Noir is a big part of my life and what’s going on in my mind when I’m looking at reality. It is presented with exactitude in the photography book « Nordic Noir » published at the end of 2017. 

Do you miss the way you were looking at world at that time?

That questions sounds like you can have a way to look at the world and then change it. As it is a style or a filter. That is totally not the case for me. Nordic Noir is exactly how I feel and sense the world that surrounds me. Yes, I love black in my photographs, yes most of my reports are about the people in the margins, yes these are important reports that deserves attention; and Nordic Noir is my own wild run. 

I can’t « miss » this way to look at the world, because it is inside my DNA. Going to the extremes, with Nordic Noir was deep honesty towards love, photography, and the main themes that I’m questioning. I can’t miss my way to look at it cause I’m still shooting there. I still need it, it became a necessary part of my life: a balance. I’ll be back in Iceland in few month, and later on in winter 2019 I have been invited to an Artist Residency in North Norway: Vesteralen. I never stopped being up there, even after the book was published I was making photographs in Norway… 

I explain my question in a different way.. sometime when a project is finished we close that chapter inside us and we start exploring different directions opening deeper level of our perceptions. Yet, after a while, sometime after years, the immediate and first way of looking and capturing moments that we had on our first big project is something that we miss because we realize we cannot replicate. 

The key is that Nordic Noir isn’t my first big project. Nordic Noir was made in parallel of my work of reporter. So when I was documenting the Mexican Morgues, or the Heroine crisis in North of France, and other reportages in EU I needed to breathe. Therefore I would head up to Scandinavia and just photograph what I was personally interested by, and confront myself to quiet places. That is why that work is personal and spread over 5 years. Because it’s not a first, and after 11 years of being a photographer I know how to close a reportage, but personal works are limitless. It just depends of your mood and feeling to continue it or end it, but in anyway it sticks to your soul.
Now I’m working on this new personal project and reportage in the USA, I evolved from Nordic Noir, and I can  do the distinction with the new project and the one still running. 
It’s a personal choice to continue something with will and desire or to start something new. 

Short Bio

His long-term projects focus on the idea of justice in contemporary Europe. For four years he followed the daily job of police officers and their interaction with the public, then he decided to enter inside Belgian prisons for more than three years from 2011 until 2014. Sébastien went in Libya in 2012 to work on the ruins of the power after the death of Kaddafi. He covered the daily life of the people living in the streets of Berlin during five months in 2013. Van Malleghem focused on the Mexican Morgues in 2017, Heroine addicts in North of France in 2018 and went back to Belgium to photograph asylums in Flanders. Next to his European reportages, Sébastien started another long-term project in 2012 focused on Scandinavia, which has been published in 2018 under the name of Nordic Noir and selected has one of the most captivating photo-book of the year by the independant magazine Mother Jones (USA)


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