Exploring the World Underneath New York City

A photographer documents the sewers beneath the metropolis.

“It’s dead quiet,” says Duncan, an urban historian and photographer. “You feel like you’re the last man on earth—and that’s incredibly rare in New York.” Steve Duncan is in a city of 8 million people, but the chances that he runs into anyone else are slim to none. He is 20 feet below a manhole cover photographing a realm that most would never dare enter. The photos he captures document the fragile relationship between the natural world and our built environment. “The same rivers and streams that were the reason that New York was founded here, they still exist, they are just hidden away,” says Duncan.

In the short documentary, A Beautiful Waste, director Jon Kasbe follows Duncan on a tour of a section of the New York City sewer system. While underground they discover hidden springs, surreal landscapes, and of course some putrid water. Duncan says that his goal is to improve cities by increasing our awareness of how they function. “Understanding how cities work is important,” says Duncan, “otherwise we don’t get to shape how they develop.”

To see more work from Jon Kasbe visit jonkasbe.com.

Paul Rosenfeld writes and produces for Atlantic Video. His work has also appeared on The Daily Beast and CNN.com.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Video

Just In