Faces turned beet-red after testing tear gas, a hand clutching garden shears at a marijuana plantation and the shrivelled feet of a corpse fished out of the Aare river: all everyday sights for Bern’s cantonal police, as seen by nine photojournalists in training.
The photojournalists were allowed to shadow the police for a year and document their work. Their instructor, photographer Reto Camenisch of the MAZ journalism school in Lucerne, said that his students were able to choose their subjects freely. For police commander Stefan Blättler, the only requirement was that they show the unglamorous reality of the profession.
Published in a book, the photos reflect the care taken with the project. Voyeurs will be disappointed; instead, the photographers take a sober distance. One example is when officials in a white tent examine a body found in the Aare river. The forensic scientist is wearing a grey jacket, faded jeans and brown shoes with snow on the toes. There’s no sign of the slick CSI-style superheroes; all they have in common with their Bern counterparts are the rubber gloves.
The images would be of little PR value for the police. But they give a human face to the officers, whether they’re raiding a brothel, practising their shooting skills or in the stable looking after their horses.
(Photos: © Kantonspolizei Bern/MAZ-students: Stefan Deuber, Alicia Friedli, Carole Lauener, Danielle Liniger, Frank Lüling, Valentin Luthiger, Christoph Mächler, Caroline Marti, Giorgia Müller)