Business

Bob Mazzer's four decades of London Underground life

Updated 1122 GMT (1922 HKT) June 4, 2014
Share
23 subway 23 subway
1 of 20
London-born Bob Mazzer has been photographing in the city's underground transport network for four decades. This shot, from the 1980s, is one of his favorites. The woman, making a call from a public phone, was so theatrical he assumed she was an actress being filmed. "She was done up like a starlet," he says. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Smoking on the tube was commonplace when Mazzer started his project. Here, a woman in heart-shaped "Lolita" glasses lights up in the early 1980s. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
This pair, photographed in 1971, caught Mazzer's his eye. He wondered what happened to the boy, and if the two were together. "I always wanted [the book] to be the bible, because then it became even more pithy," he says. Mazzer can be seen in the window reflection. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
This musician had clambered on an escalator to play his guitar in the early 80s, after Bob Marley had died. The musician had pinned a picture of Marley to the ceiling. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
This image, from Stockwell station, has become known as "Clockwell." It was snapped the exact moment the man dropped his hands, Mazzer says. "It looks like he was just standing there but he was actually busy... all the time, and he [dropped his hands] for a moment." It was "just a one off -- there was no lead up, or lead off. It was just one shot." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Another Mazzer favorite, from the mid '80s, is of this woman with a nose piercing. "I love the fact the other woman turned around just at that moment and is kind of looking at me a bit suspiciously," Mazzer says, "but the woman I'm photographing is just giving me the straight eyeball." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
In this image, also from the mid '80s, a man reads the newspaper with two pairs of glasses. "Lots of people think it's a magnifying glass," Mazzer writes in his book, Bob Mazzer Underground. "But it is another pair of spectacles." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
This image of an inter-racial couple is another of Mazzer's favorites, from around 1987. It was like "Mondrian and good vibes and equality," he says. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Mazzer recalls this fight, which he photographed around 1981, as starting after the man in braces obstructed the underground doors. The other man politely asked him to let the doors shut, but, as Mazzer's book details: "'Braces' harangued him with finger in face, very aggressive," not realizing the other man "was a black belt and about to rip him apart."' Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Many of Mazzer's images capture intimate moments, such as this kiss before the doors close on a tube in Baker Street. "What drew me to it was the contrast between him and her," Mazzer says. "He seemed completely disinterested," while she was "really kissing him." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
In his book, Mazzer explains these woman were the underground's cleaners. "In no way did I intend to make them figures of fun, but it is funny," he says. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Mazzer's images have captured many late night scenes, as he traveled to and from his work at a cinema. In this one, boys clamber up and jump over a closed gate. Mazzer notes how they'd taken the little stools used by ticket collectors to assist their escape. "There's nothing like that you can climb over anymore, it's all ticketed barriers," he says. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Mazzer likes this "lads" image as it flips what could have been seen as a threatening group into a friendly one. "They were the tail end of the mods," Mazzer says. "I poked the camera at them and they just beamed at me, and what can you do, you have to photograph them." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Here, a man takes comfort from his dog. "I remember being so touched by the whole scene," Mazzer says, noting the rarity of a adult sitting on the floor. It seemed "so sweet...a man's best friend in his hour of need." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
While many of Mazzer's subjects are caught unawares, this man with a bright red flower gazes straight down the barrel of the camera. "He was so amendable to being photographed," Mazzer says. "He was just cool, he looked so much like he'd just come from a jazz club." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
The underground has evolved from a place where you could smoke and drink, to the bright lights of today. Forty years ago, they were "pretty grotty and the stations were rough," Mazzer says. This, image from the early '80s, appealed to Mazzer because of the seating arrangement. "They were sitting as far away from each other as possible." Courtesy Bob Mazzer
This image was taken outside the Oxford Circus tube station, in central London. Mazzer recalls thinking "thank you" for this woman, in her pink coat, for suddenly poking her tongue out as people poured "like ants" down into the underground. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
The photographs have revealed how fashion has changed over the decades. Here, a woman hides behind a leaf as her photograph is taken in the late 1990s. "She let me take several pictures with the leaf not in front of her face, then did that just for fun, really," Mazzer says.
Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Mazzer says photographing the underground has shown how people have changed from reading newspapers and smoking, to becoming attached to their iPads and smartphones, like these men from 2013. Courtesy Bob Mazzer
Mazzer, in a self-portrait taken while he was at the Hornsey College of Art. The snap, taken in the the early 70s, was designed to capture the passenger next to him. Mazzer liked his hat and double-breasted herringbone coat with, with its huge lapel and "pointy bits." Courtesy Bob Mazzer