I’ve mentioned the photographer Sébastien Van Malleghem before, after coming across his work for the photo book, Police, at the Festival du Polar in Villeneuve let Avignon. Van Malleghem has followed up that stunning collection of black and white photographs, stemming from the time he spent out on the streets with the Belgian police force, with Prisons, an even more startling collection of photos resulting from research time spent in ten prisons, photographing – and getting to know – the inmates and their surroundings.
“Prisons” aims at opening our eyes on inmates; casting light on the failures of an obsolete judicial and penal system which remains to this day inscribed in the country that taught me ideals of justice and humanity.
These images show the cracks and, in this light, reveal the toll taken by a societal model bringing out tension and aggressiveness, amplifying failure, excess and insanity, faith and passion, poverty.
What is undeniable, after spending time with this book – inspiring, even – is the degree to which the humanity of Van Mallaghem as a social reporter, a social reformer, is matched perfectly by his skills as a photographer, the singular, if sometimes shocking, beauty of the black and white images taking us into the brutal heart of a system in need of change.
Prisons is published by André Frère Éditions, Marseille
For more information about Sebastien Van Malleghem and his work, visit