Charleroi, il est clair que le gris est noir (Charleroi, it is clear that grey is black) is not just a visual journey through a city in decline. It is also a personal reflection of impressions, musings and thoughts of a man who looks, listens and writes about the black ghost of a grey city. 'Love at First Sight' - that's the only way I can describe the experience of discovering Charleroi in the early 1990s. The view from the top of the slag heaps is breathtaking. The Sambre River slithers through the city invisibly, forming a ring around it like a huge sewer. The factories float on a huge aircraft carrier in the middle of the city and the mountains of coal glower in the distance. Charleroi is sick, tired, worn out, burned, hurt and humiliated. And while Charleroi was once voted the ugliest city in Europe, you will find the warmest hospitality in Europe there. The Carolos are warm-hearted to the depth of their beings. I like Charleroi. I kiss her on her mouth, despite her bad breath.

Stephan Vanfleteren, 2015



In recent years, Stephan Vanfleteren has been wandering in the pays noir (Black Country). He has a love-hate relationship with the industrial city on the Sambre where coal mines have long closed and where the declining steel industry is groaning under global economic pressures. Sometimes he's shocked by the poverty and corruption but then he is always inspired and moved by the solidarity, the openness and the hospitality of the Carolos.

Charleroi, il est clair sue le gris est noir was exhibited at Charleroi's Musee de la Photographie from 22 May until 6 December 2015. The photo book is available to buy from Uitgeverij Kannibaal HERE.

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