“To hit a man on the ground is to hit oneself” – Maurice Grimaud, Parisian police prefect, Summer 1968.
Police violence in France is not a new phenomenon, the country’s longstanding insurrectional history has seen many instances of conflict, but in recent years the police force has become more militarised and its marshalling of its citizens more aggressive.
Amidst the suppression of the Gilet Jaune (Yellow Vest) movement, which began as a fuel tax protest and now embodies a wider anti-government sentiment, we’ve observed a rise in aggression by the police and as a result seen an increase in the number of injuries sustained at their hands. Flash-balls, crowd control grenades, defence-ball launchers: The use of these weapons by police are breaking jaws, tearing-off hands, blinding people and putting them into comas. Not only are the injuries physical, but their effects are traumatic and psychological.
Paradoxically, for many of these protestors, the violence by the police has only made them more invested in activism. They have become more involved, organised and created networks of solidarity and their commitment against police impunity has now become of paramount importance.
This photographic series tries to remain distant from the common representation of police violence in an attempt to discover a different narrative. We need time to perceive what is crucial for the victims; through both testimony and portraiture there is a search for insight and understanding.