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Photographer Turns His Lens On A City’s Secret Nooks

Andrew Brooks captures forgotten urban spaces that most of us never knew existed–or were too scared to examine for ourselves.

Every photographer has his share of on-the-job hair-raisers, but Andrew Brooks‘s are perhaps stranger than most. There was the time he got lost in an asbestos-filled nuclear bunker. There was episode in which someone called the cops on him for snapping photos late at night on government property (luckily, he had permission to be there). And let’s not forget when he inadvertently intruded on nests built precariously high above the city, only to get attacked by their residents, a flock of angry pigeons.

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Brooks’s omnibus of bizarre encounters has everything to do with his subject. Since 2008, he has partnered with curator and creative producer Andy Brydon to visualize the hidden side of cities. Together, they’ve explored and captured everything from the guts of a shopping mall to an (oddly haunting) production line of dietary-supplement bottles to flooded subterranean canals in Manchester, where people slept during Luftwaffe raids. The photos give us a safe perch from which to view the dark theater of forgotten urban spaces–spaces we never knew existed, or were too scared to examine for ourselves.

The Secret Cities project has taken Brooks and Brydon to Manchester, Edinburgh, and Zoetermeer, a former fishing village in the western Netherlands. You’ll note that–as Brooks details in our slideshow above–old cities like these have plenty of secrets lurking beneath the cobblestone.

You’ll also note that the images have the skewy, high-octane aesthetic of an action film, as if they spent more than a couple minutes in post-production. Incidentally, they did. Each image–snapped with a Nikon D700–is in fact a composite, sometimes composed of as many as 200 individual images (or more). Brooks pieces them together in Adobe Photoshop so that he can control the composition, color, and atmosphere of each photograph down to the last pixel.

The point, he says in an email, “is not simply to document a space but to get as close to the experience of being in those spaces as possible–to capture the wide scene whilst also showing the fine details and textures of the locations.” If that means occasionally getting attacked by an angry flock of those fine details, well, all the better.

[Hat tip to Notcot; images courtesy of Andrew Brooks]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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