In 1861, the photographer Nadar visited the catacombs of Paris, a sepulchral netherworld that still lies beneath the living city. He was already famous for aerial views he had taken during daring flights in his hot-air balloon, and for his portraits of both society's mighty and its bohemians; in the catacombs, he experimented by illuminating his shots with the new medium of electricity. An interlocking network of abandoned quarries, filled in the 18th century with bones disinterred from Parisian cemeteries for "hygienic" reasons, the catacombs offer to this day a peculiar spectacle. The skeletons have all been disassembled; tibiae, femurs, and skulls are neatly stacked like bottles in a wine cellar, while plaques bearing Latin inscriptions warn viewers that a similar fate awaits them. A consummate showman, Nadar may have intended this subterranean excursion as a publicity stunt, but it's likely he found something amid those 7 million mortal remains that moved him, for he took his own picture there—the celebrated portraitist disguised as a laborer in the land that spells the ruin... More >>>