Once upon a time
Project info

I grew up in a time of material progress. For my parents, having a good life meant being able to buy a color tv, a small car and going on holidays with the family abroad. All these things were produced to make us happy. But we never really talked about what it means to have a fulfilling life.

Today I find myself photographing in cities like Liège and Charleroi in Belgium, and places in North Rhine-Westphalia – the German land of coal and steel. They were once important industrial centers in steel making, mining and gunsmithing. The backbone of the era of mass consumption in which I grew up.

What keeps me coming back to these places? I found out that I’m less interested in abandoned factories than in how the people live, surrounded by relics of a surreal post-industrial world. I’m fascinated by this strange mixture of roughness, urban chaos and surprisingly friendly people. What moves me is that the majority simply seems to accept the circumstances and tries to make the best out of it.

‘Once upon a time’ shows remarkable places and people I meet by chance in their own environment. Almost all pictures were taken within an hour drive from my hometown in the Netherlands. The series consist of 83 pictures, both in color and black and white. It’s a mixture of different photographic styles and approaches, matching the mixed atmosphere that characterizes the places I visit. The chosen structure is a combination of two landscape pictures, followed by a standing still life photo and a close headshot. For me, these images depict the poetry and the humor that are hidden in these depressing urban environments. Which makes them more than worthwhile for me to visit and photograph.