Paris / by Kenneth Kao

This is a special video from 2 days ago.

It's the behind the scenes of a photo shoot inside the Catacombs - -the real ones, not the tourist ones.

It was a 5 hour trip, from 10pm-4am. We had to crawl through holes smaller than our shoulders, work our way through thigh-high muddy waters, explore abandoned war bunkers and sub-cultural phenomenons (Did you know the Catacombs has a secret movie theater in it? And 3 breweries that you have to be acrobatic enough to get to?)

Anyway, it's not easy setting these things up, much less accomplishing it. We may be the first people ever to do a full out photoshoot with a team for lights and equipment, models, and costumes, all on location in the catacombs of Paris. This is about 75lbs of gear and costumes. By the time we got to our first photoshoot destination at a hidden "Throne of Bones" -- we were exhausted. There wasn't time to do more than a single location for the shoot.

Quick history: The early harvesting of rocks to build Paris left the underground unstable and dangerous, leading to many collapses and deaths. Construction to rebuild the underground's stability took priority. But later, with the black death, the underground was used as a burial site for 6-7 million bodies that had no place to go. It was condemned. Only about a hundred years ago have people begun using it again, and for some time it was used as war bunkers as well as criminal activity for drug trade. Most recently, it is simply a place of lost history, where only a few wander and make efforts to preserve it, or create new art, while evading the police tasked to keeping people out. Most the skeletons, the "good" ones, have been harvested for the museums, and the rest of the skeletons are completely abandoned. Obviously, this is a lot of history that is forgotten, but for those who wander the catacombs, their goal is to find ways to remember.

There is an intricate community protecting the catacombs, and they are very closed. They have their own rules, and we did our best to abide by them and respect what they have tasked themselves with. It wasn't easy to find someone to help us accomplish this goal, of creating something new and rich and authentic within the catacombs, and it took months of planning. Please, though I'm tagging our guides, they've requested not to be reached out to. They won't answer (but you can follow their Instagrams, linked below).

That being said, since it's over 300km of mazes, without a guide and a certain fitness level, it's a really bad idea to go alone. This is a world you can't just walk in. Well, you could if you knew the entrances, but you'd get lost or stuck. Even our guides went the wrong direction and discovered new places many times during our trip, though they'd already spent so much time there.

Anyway, lighting the catacombs is incredibly difficult. There is no natural light to work with, (obviously) and options are limited as the spaces are all very small. Most photographs of the catacombs are long exposures, but I tried to do something different. Hopefully it gives something magical to the images. I can't wait to go back, someday, and create new images with the many ideas I have and the many wondrous things that exist there.

Enjoy the video.

Huge huge huge thanks to our guides:
Frederic "Freed" ( and Melina "LaPC" (

Marlo Fisken