40 years of undergound snaps

40 years of undergound snaps

People watching. It’s one of the most entertaining experiences a person can have on the tube. Find your seat, plug in your music and you’re good to go. Who knows what you might catch in the corner of your eye during the countless hours that we spend in cramped awkwardness on our daily commute to and from work. 277 hours per year worth of history that just pass us by. Innumerous minutes of life’s moments that often go by completely unnoticed. For photographer Bob Mazzer this daily ritual on London’s busy underground network became something of a fascination that he has spent the last 40 years recording.

The charm and nostalgia of an aged photograph taken on film will always out way the supposed quality of digital media – in my eyes. In a time when Instagram and Twitpics are our way of recording experiences, it would appear that we as a generation are starting to lose track of the importance of our youth amidst the popularity contests of social media.

As an on/off user of sites such as Instagram and Facebook (and admittedly an avid tweeter) I’ve become less and less interested in what sites such as these have to show. Places that once held inspiration and memories now mostly contain images of proud food moments or over philosophical statements that really don’t have much meaning or wisdom behind them at all.

That’s why I was so enthralled, no, mesmerized by Mazzer’s images, when I first caught site of them a few weeks ago. In commemoration of London Underground’s 150th anniversary, Mazzer took to his Facebook page to share the project that he had been working on since he was first given a camera at the tender age of 13. Mazzer decided to record hundreds of tiny pieces of history. Moments in time that would otherwise have slipped by without anyone else, but the participants, taking note. Whether he knew it or not at the time, he has managed to capture memories that perhaps these people appearing in the images, do not even realise that they have.

Not only that, but throughout the decades of his one of a kind photography project, we are able to bear witness to some of London’s most iconic fashion trends and styles. Whether it’s the Punks of 80s or the Teddy Boys and Rockers of the 60s, Mazzer has most likely caught them on camera at some point during his tube riding stints. As one of the world’s undisputed fashion capitals, the city of London, its many movements and fashion legacy, has influenced numerous generations of young designers, students and artists. It’s easy to see the influences of previous style eras in each and every one of the city’s young creatives and their work.

As a Londoner, I find myself the audience to events similar to those caught in Mazzer’s lens, most days when I travel on London’s public transport. As a young designer I see these events and add them to the wealth of inspiration that is already apparent; a source that I (and many others) have used consistently, year after year.

Perhaps what is most noticeable are ways in which society has and has not changed in the last 50 years. In essence many of the scenes captured 50 years ago could still be witnessed on todays morning commute or the final tube of the night. Platforms filled to the brim at rush hour with grimacing ‘suits’ and businessmen, are still a common sight; though perhaps now with the addition of struggling interns and a lack of bowler hats.

It is difficult not to be struck by the nostalgic beauty of Bob Mazzer’s photographs; they are evidence of the little windows of joy in the mundane of day-to-day life, and a wealth of inspiration and historical value in their own right. Plus, the added fascination of seeing how the other half lived, before we were even glimmers in our parents eyes. What life was like back then, a parallel version of London that we will never get to see, where people walked the same platforms, caught the same trains, but each had completely different experiences on the same journeys.

Born in the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, Jewish bred Mazzer grew up in London. It was during a time in the eighties when he had a job as a projectionist in a porn cinema in Kings Cross that he took to photographing the energy of his tube journeys. To and from home, he captured the heartbeat of London. Bob Mazzer now lives in Hastings but loves to ride the tube whenever he gets the chance.

Written by Hannah Fickling

Visuals courtesy Bob Mazzer

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