In France, from the bassin de Séon to the foothills of the massif de l’Étoile, along the banks of the Aygalades and the rue de Lyon, the districts of northern Marseille bear a singular, stereotyped falsehood: Their streets are rife with crime, gangs, and drugs.

In the quartiers nord the bourgeois lifestyle of the 19th century has long since been replaced by an industrial, working-class identity. Today the serendipity, contrasts, and divisions of these districts, which are populated predominantly by immigrants, are threatened by the vision of a safer, more efficient city. For the past 15 years, the terms reclaiming, Euroméditerranée, urban renewal, Marseille-Provence have succeeded each other like a litany trying to exorcise a curse.

Yet the people of northern Marseille continue to deploy their talents, intuition, and hustle to maintain their claim to their neighborhoods. Indifferent to crime statistics and efforts to rebrand their districts, the youth own their city with a passion and resist plans to create a more sanitized, future city. As Marseille’s image and rebranding become a central concern for government, neighborhood life remains the best response to the forces of amnesia.

All photos from the series “Faux-bourgs” by Yohanne Lamoulère/Picturetank, taken between 2009 and 2016.

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