The black rain

 The Tata steel factory can be seen from the village of Wijk aan Zee litteraly surrounded by it. Locals say that their only escape is the see. The dunes are marking the different area for the town and the factory. Half of the dunes have been made by the factory and are covering pollution waste.

The black rain

A photo assignment

I received an email from De Volkskrant on an afternoon at the end of December, to know if I was available to complete an assignment before early Jan. Yes I was available and the reportage sounded super exciting.

Note: It is WAY LESS exciting to be in Belgium in winter. The landscape is empty, flat, wet and not the happiest. If you are lucky you might spot some ray of lights in the morning. The rest is plain grey sky, and green fields. Here are two images I shot with my phone while driving on my way to the assignment.

I was then driving for a couple of hours up north to Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands. It’s a small village surrounded by a gigantic steel Factory “Tata steel”. The inhabitants are saying “We are surrounded from all the side, our only escape is the sea”. I was going to meet Sauw Buwalda, an ex sailor that crossed the 7 seas, lived many lives, and was born and always lived in Wijk aan Zee when he was on the ground. Now almost retired, he explained me how he was struggling to push ecologic deals between one of the biggest factory of Europe and the little town that Tata Steel is surrounding.

This topic and story beautifully written by John Schoorl, are nowadays essential. Even if the question should have been asked years ago, at EU council and each EU gov.

“How do we cope with our giant factories and the pollution they produce at the time of climate change or should I say World Climate Crisis ?”

An Irish cow is rubbing itself against a wood-stick in the dunes, facing the giant steel factory in Wijk aan Zee

An Irish cow is rubbing itself against a wood-stick in the dunes, facing the giant steel factory in Wijk aan Zee

The factory surrounds the village for 75 % the next 25 % the sea closes it. In between the village and the factory 1/3 of natural sand dunes, the 2/3 thirds are chemical waste produced by the factory covered by sand and therefore looking like dunes…

One of the point of my assignment was to take portraits of Sauw Buwalda. The man was a rock, fighting trough endless administrative system of the Dutch government to reduce the pollution of the factory. Tata steel as one of the biggest actor of the Dutch economy, is in the favours of the government. On the other hand, people from the town are showing sickness due to the pollution, and quite often experience the “Black Rain”…  To get back to Sauw, he was a spontaneous man, with a harsh life, still full of joy and rock’n roll. The laughing shot was for me the most honest vision I could get about him.

One of the point of my assignment was to take portraits of Sauw Buwalda. The man was a rock, fighting trough endless administrative system of the Dutch government to reduce the pollution of the factory. Tata steel as one of the biggest actor of the Dutch economy, is in the favours of the government. On the other hand, people from the town are showing sickness due to the pollution, and quite often experience the “Black Rain”…

To get back to Sauw, he was a spontaneous man, with a harsh life, still full of joy and rock’n roll. The laughing shot was for me the most honest vision I could get about him.

The other point was to visually cover the relation between the small village and the factory. We climbed up dunes with Sauw to reach the key point where you could clearly see the factory stretching the village but it was suddenly not possible to access due to fresh fences (In the middle of nowhere..). We went to a further but higher place close by, a hotel that let me photograph from their terrasse.

The other point was to visually cover the relation between the small village and the factory. We climbed up dunes with Sauw to reach the key point where you could clearly see the factory stretching the village but it was suddenly not possible to access due to fresh fences (In the middle of nowhere..). We went to a further but higher place close by, a hotel that let me photograph from their terrasse.

For the technical aspect I was asked to photograph this how I wanted and in black and white.

I photograph with a Nikon D850 and a 35mm 1.4 and a 24-70mm 2.8

I enjoyed the assignment because the story was important, the scenery was apocalyptic and I discovered that the Dutch actually love Wijk aan Zee due to its “artistic” potential, extreme contrast between nature and industry, quiet place without tourist and many other reasons. After I photographed I took an extra time in the Netherlands to visit friends in the beautiful city of Amsterdam.

The story publish by the Volkskrant


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Cheers!