Photos by Thomas Baltes
Thomas Baltes is a 29 years old photographer, living in Paris. He discovered photography at 20, and found in it a perfect way to go deep into stories. In 2009, he starts a long-term photo story about the ghost city of Doel, in the north of Belgium. He also work as free-lance for magazines such as Guitar Part (musician portraits and studio packshots).
Doel is a city next to Antwerpen, in Belgium. It used to be a charming city, often visited by weekenders from The Netherlands. Antwerpen is one of the biggest ports in the world, and Doel has always lived with supertankers chimney passing by just behind the bank of the waterway that leads ti the North Sea. But in 1998 started a process that would put an end to this charming story.
The city of Antwerpen and the Port Authorities bought the houses and the land of Doel to destroy it and build a new dock. The inhabitants have been offered money to move away, and some did.
A few decided to stay, and to fight for their rights : most of them don’t believe that the new dock is useful (the port activity have been decreasing in 2009). Some are born here and don’t even know where to go.
Meanwhile, the word was out that in a city in the north of the country, houses were abandonned.
All kind of people went from all over the country, and stole everything that left, from ground to ceiling, including electric wires and tapestry. Today, about thirty people remain in the city.
For years, they have been fighting to prevent it from destruction, through legal actions as well as several artistic happenings.
They live in a place where most houses are empty, and dark at night.I met the people there and photographed this situation during two years, trying to create a parallel between the people who stayed and the destroyed houses through dyptichs portraits/landscape.