When I moved to the small town of Limoges in central France I came across a group of people living in a row of shacks next to the river Vienne. I actually found myself walking right through the middle of their camp, as always, I had a habit of wandering into places that most people might avoid, but my legs possessed a will of their own that day.
After that initial visit I occasionally passed the area, and would sometimes see people leaving or returning, presumably from somewhere closer to the centre of town. I would also see a man, and perhaps his son who would come by bike to collect water from the pump not far from their camp. There were one or two beggars in town who could have possibly lived by the river, but besides these infrequent sightings the population of the camp remained largely inconspicuous.
A year later perhaps, I found myself back at the camp which at first sight appeared to be deserted. When I approached however, I could see that there had been a huge fire which had engulfed the camp and scorched the surrounding trees close to the roadside. I returned early in the morning the next day, and spent many hours there searching through the remains and photographing small elements of the scene as well as the many shoes I found scattered about. Like I had done before in Madeira I decided to collect all the shoes together to form some kind of display at the end. I kept wondering to myself though, why the previous occupants had left behind so many shoes. Did they leave barefoot? And if not, why did they have such a surplus of footwear?
I imagined that the camp had burnt just before I found it, but on doing a little research it turned out that it had in fact remained in its charcoaled state for months before I discovered it, and it stayed that way for some time longer before the council finally cleared everything away.
Looking through what was left of the camp I thought about how these people had made a life from things they found, how they would now start the process all over again, and how many times had they done so already?
An short article about the camp written by the local newspaper can be found here.