This article originally appeared on VICE Belgium.
Whenever he gets a break from his classes at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgian photographer Sebastiaan Franco goes traveling in search of exciting people and places to capture. So far, the 25-year-old has taken his camera to Kenya and the Republic of Ireland, but also places closer to home, like Seraing—a small city in Wallonia, the mainly French-speaking south of Belgium.
While you can imagine what draws a photographer to the first two destinations, it's a bit harder to settle on a reason for the third. By chance, Sebastiaan traveled through the area once with a friend in 2012, and has been coming back ever since. "All these years later, for reasons I still can't fully understand, I've fallen in love with the place, the atmosphere, and the people I've met there," he says.
Seraing, like many towns in Wallonia, has been greatly affected by the decline of the local steel and coal mining industry, and that history shows in every part of the town. Since business and industry left the area, what's left is a large number of dilapidated buildings and a population struggling to find work locally.
"People forget that, over a century ago, the economy in towns like this was flourishing," Sebastiaan says. And because of what they've been through, he tells me, residents are deeply protective and proud of Seraing: "There's a real inner beauty to the place. I think that goes for all of our industrial cities, not just Seraing."
Scroll down to see more of Sebastiaan's photos of Seraing.
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