Gert Jochems - Photographer documentary, portraits, commercial

In the winter of 2007 I happened to end up in Dampremie, a suburb of Charleroi. A hamlet not much bigger than five streets. I returned to it several times and was immediately impressed, even a little taken aback. I still remember it well, how many times while walking there have I thought: how is this possible, so much miserabilism all together? Knowing that not so long ago, municipalities such as Dampremie were the beating heart of the economic giant Wallonia. The railway rails and poutrel beams with which Belgium was built were once produced here. Dampremy was once an El Dorado for Flemish, Italian, Turkish and Maghrebian migrants who could not find work in their own region.

Recently, January 2020, I found a loose piece of paper among my negatives, on which I had briefly written down my impressions about Dampremie. Vacant, sunken ground between the houses, nothing else. Deserted streets where decay is peeling from the walls. All very dark houses, almost black actually. Deux pieces bas, deux pieces high. Poverty, unemployment and deprivation compressed into a few square kilometers. Crime must thrive here. It is as if there is an ever-looming danger. Yet there is no panic, nor melancholy. Despondency is perhaps a more accurate word. Sad. That's what it says on the piece of paper. And after reading this, I started going back there. No longer just to Dampremy, to the entire region around it, Le Pays Noir.