Urban photographer Jeroen van Dam does take pictures of regular famous landmarks.
But the supremely talented snapper – he was shortlisted in this year’s Sony World Photography Awards – prefers to shoot hidden, darker and grittier environments.
And when he does – he makes them look absolutely epic, sometimes even glamorous.
This slice of monumental architecture in the Noisy-le-Grand suburb of Paris is a housing complex called Espaces Abraxas that was designed by Ricardo Bofill – and used as a set for The Hunger Games
Pictured left is the madcap, seemingly impossible Hotel Inntel Zaandam, which is like a building from a surreal fairytale. On the right is a dramatic picture of a former gasometer that has been turned into swanky dwellings in Vienna
A hypnotic high-rise in Hong Kong, one of many shots of mindboggling architecture in Jeroen’s portfolio
His breathtaking portfolio, some of which we’re showcasing here, includes shots of huge storm drains, lost railways, collapsed Second World War bunkers and an abandoned power plant used for movie Blade Runner 2049.
There are also shots of architecture that boggles the mind, including the astonishing Parisian apartment block used as a Hunger Games set and an impossibly higgledy-piggledy hotel in the Netherlands.
Jeroen, who lives in Rotterdam, says that he likes to show the appeal of a city’s darker side – or to take a photograph of something famous from an unexpected angle – to help people appreciate where they live more.
The seemingly infinite floors of an apartment block in one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world – Macao, China
On the left, a Hong Kong market glows hypnotically. On the right, Jeroen captures a spot of urban mountaineering in Vienna
He tells MailOnline Travel: ‘I’m not the kind of photographer who is happy shooting beautiful, romantic places or tourist destinations. I am more intrigued by places that people find unattractive, or never bothered to enjoy in the first place. With my photography, I want to show how gritty, dark and dirty places can be appealing too, in their own way.
‘I also find it interesting to take photos of a well-known place in a different way, so people are put on the wrong track. That’s why I often try to find a higher point of view, like a rooftop, to shoot a familiar spot from an unexpected angle. Sometimes I get comments from people who live right around the corner, but never realised what was hidden right under their noses.
‘I feel satisfied when because of my work, people start looking around more carefully and appreciate the city they live in better.’
Inside the basement of a massive cooling tower in Belgium. Jeroen says he is drawn to shooting places ‘that people find unattractive’ and showing how they can be appealing, too
On the left, inside a collapsed Second World War bunker in Vienna. Pictured on the right is an abandoned power plant in Hungary that was used for the filming of Blade Runner 2049
In a mystery subterranean location in the Netherlands. Jeroen says: ‘Urban exploring opened my eyes to the world around me. It made me step out of my comfort zone and helped me become a more open-minded person’
A construction site in Paris that looks uncannily like a missile silo. Jeroen says: ‘says: ‘The people on my photos are usually other explorers, portrayed in their (un)natural habitat. I really like to have one person in frame: small and vulnerable in that big and hostile space, as if he or she doesn’t belong there’
An other-worldly tunnel in Stuttgart. Jeroen says his journey into the world of urban photography began in 2014
On the left – lighting up an abandoned gasometer in Belgium. On the right is a picture of a lost and overgrown railway in Paris
Jeroen has a veteran’s eye for a great shot – but he actually only started down the photography road in 2014.
And his background as an architect and urban designer had big influences on his subject matter and how he shot it.
He reveals: ‘I trained as an architect and was happy designing buildings for a few years. But in 2014 one of my friends lent me his DSLR camera to try out and shortly after we went to Hong Kong together, to explore the city with our cameras.
‘That trip gave me so many good memories that I became addicted to photography and travelling. I decided to quit my job as an architect to only focus on cities – as an urban photographer and an urban designer for Rotterdam.
Exploring Stuttgart’s controversial railway tunnel project, due to be completed in 2021
On the left is a picture that captures New York subway trains breaking cover around a bend – and on the right, rooftopping in Rotterdam
‘Wanting to understand how cities work as a living system, I started travelling to major cities all over the world to find out.
‘My camera became the main tool to record all the wonders that I discovered.’
But these wonders aren’t necessarily structures he would incorporate into a design for a city.
He continues: ‘When still an architect, I was already drawn to tall, modern buildings, especially the dark and sinister-looking ones, and later they became one of my favourite subjects to shoot. Being an architect surely helps in understanding complex buildings or urban sites, and finding good compositions easily.
‘But in my new job as an urban designer I also learned to mistrust modern architecture: no matter how cool it looks on photos, it often doesn’t contribute to good city life.
One of the Notre Dame gargoyles in a mesmerising picture that has something of the Ghostbusters about it
This image, says Jeroen, shows the hidden beauty of storm drain tunnels. This picture was taken in Madrid
On the left is a shot taken on top of the iconic De Rotterdam building in Rotterdam. It comprises offices, apartments and a hotel. On the right is the ‘magnificent’ City Hall in London, which is HQ for the mayor
‘So, there is a big contradiction between what I look for in cities as a photographer, and what I want a city to look like when you live there.
‘However, photography made me realise that a good city doesn’t have to be all polished and shiny, and that unpolished and rough areas might be more interesting and even more attractive than you would imagine. In that sense, my own rugged port-city of Rotterdam offers the best of both worlds.’
Some of Jeroen’s photographs feature a solitary person, sometimes gazing at the view, or perhaps holding a flare.
They are usually other urban adventurers, reveals Jeroen.
A stunning view of Vienna at night. Jeroen says: ‘When you are high up on a rooftop, it’s like you experience the city a hundred times more – the wide views, the noises, the lights, they make you feel so alive’
An urban explorer takes in the view in the RER train tunnels deep beneath Paris. These lines were developed from the 1960s onwards
Stockholm’s subway system is akin to one gigantic art gallery. This picture was taken at T-Centralen
He says: ‘The people on my photos are usually other explorers, portrayed in their (un)natural habitat. I really like to have one person in frame: small and vulnerable in that big and hostile space, as if he or she doesn’t belong there, questioning our relationship with the city as tiny, insignificant inhabitants.
‘Urban exploring opened my eyes to the world around me. It made me step out of my comfort zone and helped me become a more open-minded person. I’ve always been curious about everything, but photography made me adventurous, too. The moment I discovered the existence of those locations, I wanted to experience them in real-life. And I cannot deny that I got attracted a bit to the risks involved in visiting them.
‘In a way, these places became my hide-out of ordinary life. When you are in a tunnel, there are no lights or sounds coming down, and yet you still sense the presence of the city above, soft and faded.
‘On the contrary, when you are high up on a rooftop, it’s like you experience the city a hundred times more – the wide views, the noises, the lights, they make you feel so alive.’