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Light painting in the catacombs of Paris

Light painting in the catacombs of Paris

The catacombs of Paris  (DKL Adventures 2017)


You can find the Spanish version of this article  and the French version here

When my friends from Ligue Francophone of Light Painting (LFLP) offered me to visit the catacombs, I accepted without hesitation, and Children of Darklight (Frodo DKL and Patry Diez in this case) we planned the trip with a couple of extra days to not miss such an adventure. What we lived there will never be forgotten. Without exaggeration, we keep it as one of the best experiences of our life …

On Friday afternoon we had met in the city with members of Ligue Francophone of Light Painting (LFLP) to make a clandestine visit to the catacombs, so we could meet them have a walk by the catacombs, take pictures and spend a little time together. To be honest, I knew the existence of the catacombs of Paris, but I was not aware of what we were going to find there …


A bit of history

The first tunnels of the catacombs of Paris were originally initiated by the Romans, and it was in the XII century when they began to explode as mines to extract minerals. It was the quarry of Paris, from there minerals were extracted for all the great monuments of the city. At the end of the eighteenth century, the saturated cemeteries of Paris began to be released and the bones were moved to different ossuaries in the corridors of the catacombs, with different figures, decorations or inscriptions.


“Currently the visitable area of the catacombs are just 800 meters of tunnels and are sealed with gates to prevent access to the rest of the galleries, with a total of 321km.This is a dark sub-world, typical of a horror movie, perhaps dangerous but at the same time very attractive for many people, who can access by other more or less known points. ” This was the new world that we were going to discover … Without light, without electricity, without coverage … labyrinthine … adventure … !!!


and here we go

The team was formed by the French Stéphane Baba, Mass, Stabeau Light, Cédric Mérand, Nadia, Patry Diez, and Frodo DKL. We wore clothes that we knew we could spoil, shoes we were going to get wet, spare clothes, some cans of beer, and a few light painting tools, in addition to the tripod and camera.

We entered at around 8pm but down there we lost track of time and the hours could not be calculated correctly. The first section of tunnels was not complicated, you could move well, and already at that time, the place surprised me.


It was full of graffiti and tacks, and at the same time, it was very clean. Our first objective was the hall of the Castle, and we arrived there after crossing a flooded tunnel, especially one that had water up to the knees. Then we made the first stop to rest and regain strength. It was called the Castle Room, I suppose because it had a castle, carved in the stone by some underground artist, as well as the occasional gargoyle of plaster.

Again to our surprise, there were 4 people doing the same thing that we were going to do, rest, and they gave us the relief. Then two other people joined us, and with them, we shared a few moments. Before leaving, after half an hour or so, another group of people arrived … Among them, there was a cataphile, and some tourists, like us, who are those who go for the first time or almost for the first time to the catacombs. There was much more people moving there than we imagined.


We keep walking by the galleries a good distance, not knowing how to estimate the time. Interestingly, many of the tunnels crossings have plaques with the names of the streets. This is a way of orienting oneself, because in general, the underground tunnels follow the same urban layout as the streets that are above, on the surface.


In our advance, we continued to meet with more groups of people. Like us, each group carried their music, which is not only a way to encourage our adventure but also a preventive measure to avoid getting lost. It was wonderful the good vibes that exist with each group that we met.


Then we went to a place called La Cervecería, but on the way, we stopped at a place called La Playa. I can not remember it well, but it sounds like a square, with a lot of graffiti, some nice corner as if it were a room, people … Perhaps this space was eclipsed by the following: La Cervecería, the beer factory. This itself was a much wider space, with many rooms, and wide galleries without loss. The old basement, where drums and beer cans were once stored, had been transformed into an authentic clandestine street art museum, with cool pieces, sculptures, graffiti, stencils, a “room of mirrors” … the energy that was perceived there It was very strong, inspiring and positive …


There we made a good stop, to rest, go to our air and do some light painting around. We started Patry and I with the Hall of Mirrors, where Stabeau Light joined us to work, and we continued through the area, where at times Mass also joined us.


Here some more light painting of our colleagues who gave us to show them in this article. Some work of Cédric:


And some other work by Mass:



After our creative moment, we gather at the meeting point again to prepare for the next leg. We expected a new walk, perhaps another hour, to another place that was announced to us very special, and then we got on our way. The forces began to wane, and our backs resented the long walks crouched, with the low ceiling, and with a backpack on our back. Other sections had to be removed to crawl across the floor to another tunnel.


Reaching our destination

Finally, we reach our destination. Undoubtedly, the place was very special. I do not remember its name. It was a rectangular room, not very large, and very cosy, with a rectangular table sculpted in the center and carved on the wall around them. It had a metal door that we could close, creating a better atmosphere with our music, and the walls were full of folded spoons. We soon changed the cold light of our fronts, by the warm light of the candles that we placed on them, and the room then became cosy magical.


But the best was yet to come, our hosts had been absent for a few moments and they gave us a new surprise by appearing again in the tunnel. They brought another backpack, which they had hidden the night before, and they took out a tablecloth, plates, cutlery, bread, a camping gas and some large cans of ravioli.  It was around 4 in the morning, we had 8 exciting hours in the basement of Paris, and we were about to have some warm ravioli in a dining room in the catacombs.


The dinner has made us feel way better, the ravioli was really delicious as if it was from the kitchen of the best chef in Paris, and we were very excited about the events that were taking place and the experience we were experiencing.

This was our final destination, and from here we would take the road back to the surface. So after dinner, we took advantage, and we set out to do some more light painting in the tunnels adjoining the room.


Our colleagues also did not waste their time, here some works by Stéphane Baba, Cédric Mérand and Mass:



Taking the way back

And with this our adventure was coming to an end … or so we thought … At about 6 in the morning, we were already preparing to leave. We could choose between the normal path or the shortcut … and we decided the shortcut, with almost nobody knowing what was waiting for us. We were very tired already and we started our march after picking up the whole camp. At first, the tunnels were low-ceiling, very tiring for our backs, and I naively consoled myself that this would be the most complicated part of the remaining road.


Nothing farther from reality, we expected a step of the most complex. We had to take off our backpacks, and one by one push them through a hole in the wall, which we had to put ourselves in after, and our only chance to move was to drag us head to head.


When you got into the hole there was a downhill. You had to push the backpack and let it roll, and then we, about two meters, as if it were a slide. The sensation was the most strange and unprecedented. We not only descended dragged by inertia with our hands in front but, as if it were not enough, when we reached the bottom, the narrow tunnel turned 90º to the right, and when touching the ground with our hands we had to turn the body laterally, in order to track right in the direction of the exit tunnel. Oh, and in a space so rickety that you can barely move or not to turn around, then you had to wriggle afterwards to get your arm back, and help to move the backpack away from the next so that it would not fall on top of it, so what it could happen … almost nothing. Although that first stage of the complicated step was resolved quickly, what was coming now was a small agony. Maybe it was not 20 meters, but crawling through a tunnels where you could not even open your arms without touching the walls with your elbows, nor lift your head to look back, and with each step you took you had to push another step the heavy backpack with hands, I assure you that they seemed 100 meters and that was eternal.


My thought was abstracted only focused on the arm with which I had to make the effort to push the backpack in that step, I was really exhausted, left arm, I crawled, right arm, I dragged, how much will it last ? left arm, I drag, right arm, I crawl … maybe that made me not assaulted any moment of anguish, beyond falling exhausted by my own fatigue. Patry was even afraid that I would get stuck. Going out one by one, to a tunnel that with only 1 meter high seemed the best place in the world to sit and catch your breath, it was wonderful and exhausting.It had been a tough step but we all got over it without problems. After a few more minutes to recover, we continue our journey. There was not much left and it was not the best of the stages, but after what had happened and how close to the start, it did not take us much longer to reach the end of our journey.


Through a hole, we came to the surface. It was 8 a.m. We were full of mud and very tired, we had been 12 hours inside the catacombs, under the streets of Paris. We began the path back to the surface. In our memory, we added the memories we had just lived, one more adventure, one of the best and most unforgettable of our lives. Thanks LFLP


Children of Darklight – Patry Diez · Stéphane Baba · Mass · Stabeau Light · Ligue Francophone de Light Painting


Frodo DKL

Children of Darklight





About The Author

Jannis Sid

Jannis Sid aka Luplof is a greek Light Painter based in Helsinki Finland. Working for 20 years in the entertainment industry as a light designer he has developed a special relationship with light. Light painting since he moved to Finland in 2010, more actively since 2015. In 2017 he founded the LightPaintBox and started this blog.

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