The Underbelly Project Paris
Following my visit in 2010 to the Underbelly project in New York I was invited back again this time to document the latest incarnation of the Underbelly Project in progress at a secret location under Paris. Needless to say getting 16 people, camera kit, painting materials and supplies into an underground spot illegally is no easy feet and required military precision planning.
We met at the crack of dawn some distance from the entrance. After a few checks and the strategic movement of some construction barriers we cautiously made our way to the manhole cover in groups ready to descend into the darkness.
To say I was anxious would be an understatement, all sorts of things were going through my mind. What happens if we get caught? (we’ve all been the number of local attorney just in case). How will I climb down a manhole cover & ladder with a 16kg rucksack of camera kit but despite a few worrying moments hanging from a ladder in pitch black darkness we all managed to get to the bottom of the shaft some 40 feet below where we took a break and and made the most of the last glimpses of the dawn sky which we could just make out high above. Metro trains rattled passed on the line below pulling fresh air through the tunnels as we made our way to the spot.
PAC & Workhorse have assembled quite a line up of artists who have travelled from Europe and the USA for this experience & here we all are climbing down manholes & ladders in a foreign city & running along tracks avoiding detection. Along for the ride is Conor Harrington, Futura, How & Nosm, Will Barras, SheOne, Trsitan Eaton, Saber, C215 and Alice Pasquini. Also along to document the project is another photographer who needs no introduction, Martha Cooper & for moving pictures the talented Marine Longuet.
Tristan Eaton sets to work on his wall next to SheOne who was painting the end wall of the tunnel, it wasn’t long before the clear air of the tunnel was thick with paint fumes and dust. These are the most demanding circumstances I have ever had to take pictures in & with the dust being so thick the camera light sensor had to be cleaned every few minutes otherwise proper readings were impossible. Regardless of this all artists were soon into the zone and working furiously most notably How & Nosm who did not leave their wall for the entire time we were underground.
The air was too thick with fumes to be able to take good shots of the finished tunnel so we re-visited the spot a couple of days later once the dust had settled but even after 36 hours the air was still thick with the familiar odour of solvent. The shot below was taken just after we all arrived and people were sorting their kit out. Click the images to see the walls more clearly.
I took the picture below whilst Martha was off in the distance shooting with a flash.