There are six or maybe seven thousand Gitans living in the Saint-Jacques district in the historic heart of Perpignan. In this network of little streets and lanes, the houses are dilapidated, sometimes insanitary; the children are outside until late at night, few go to school. The women, sitting on folding chairs on their doorsteps, watch them play; the men, often absent, take a siesta or hang around in the local squares. For years, drugs have ravaged the young people. The evangelical churches, as active as they are conservative, try to save the lost sheep of the locality. In Saint Jacques few people work, a lot live on benefits. The picture is bleak. It’s hard to get away from the stereotyping. The outlook for the future, some would say, is no better. Nevertheless, Jeanne Taris has grown fond of these families who have made her welcome, the “Payo” who wandered into their district one day in September, who spent many hours sitting by their side on the pavements, who photographed their annual celebrations and their ordinary mornings.
Arriving in Saint-Jacques from that day on, she never fails to say hello to Jeanne, Marceline, Joseph, Ange, Monique, Pachéco, Chatou, Désire, Thierry, Antoine, Pitchuro, Ismael. Jeanne has returned on several occasions to visit this district, which some would go so far as to call a ghetto, and which the townspeople of Perpignan hardly ever go near. She has spent days and nights, three Christmas and three New Year’s Day with the people of Saint Jacques. Searching for the glimmer of hope, the joy, the conviviality which is, despite everything, apparent.
In September 2016, Jeanne Taris went for the first time to the “Visa pour l’Image” festival in Perpignan. She viewed the exhibitions there, but above all, spent days and nights in the Gitans quarter - a subject of particular interest for this woman from Bordeaux, mother of four grown up children, who had a few months earlier, brought out a photographic history of the Andalusian Gitanos. “The more I get to know the Gitans, the more doors open in Spain and in France! I have never found a subject which has gripped me so viscerally”.
Since September 2016, she has made regular visits to the ST Jacques district - meeting people from the neighbourhood, sharing meals, spending nights together, accompanying them as they go about their everyday lives.