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Travel Destination: The Sewers of the World

photo of Dry Sewer under Queens

Dry Sewer under Queens

People don’t normally jump at the chance to photograph a sewer. For one, sewers are used to transport all sorts of waste, from rainwater to human waste. Let’s not forget the rats. Have you seen Ratatouille? If not rats, then snakes.

So, why the underground? Steve Duncan explains, “As an urban historian & photographer, I try to peel back the layers of a city to see what’s underneath. From the tops of bridges to the depths of sewer tunnels, these explorations of the urban environment help me puzzle together the interconnected, multi-dimensional history and complexity of the great metropolises of the world.“

It’s a rare look into areas of the city that are not usually accompanied by guided tours and brochures. The ‘off-limits’ part made it all the more attractive to Steve. We’re not encouraging anyone to go out and do something illegal, but in Steve’s case, it paid off. After exploring New York’s less popular layers, he went on to explore the underground infrastructure of other cities as well. Paris, Rome, Berlin, Montreal, Chicago, London, Naples, Stockholm, Toronto and Vienna are just some of the places he has visited since then.

His urban exploration extends beyond sewers. “I go into a lot of places into the urban underground especially if they have a good historical story attached to them.” Catacombs, abandoned subway stations, new tunnels, big tunnels and small tunnels also hold his interest.

photo of London sewer

London sewer

photo of Old City Hall subway station in NYC

Old City Hall subway station in NYC

Photo of Paris catacombs

Paris catacombs

photo of Part of Stockholm’s utility network

Part of Stockholm’s utility network

photo of Old Freight Tunnels under Downtown Chicago

Old freight tunnels under downtown Chicago

Meeting people who lived underground helped him realize that there was so much more to the city than what he was seeing. It prompted him to explore above ground more closely as well, specifically bridges.

photos of underground infrastructure

Over time, his work grew in popularity. He has now appeared in various publications and TV shows around the world. Watch out for his walking tours in NYC in the summer or fall, or schedule a private tour with Steve to learn more about underground sewers, rivers, urban history and more!

Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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