• 13

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

Photography

Behind the Scenes: We interview Bob Mazzer about his photographs taken on the Tube

Posted by Maisie Skidmore,

With the amount of press attention he’s been getting over the last couple of weeks in the run up to his debut exhibition at London’s Howard Griffin Gallery, you’d think photographer Bob Mazzer would be somewhat overwhelmed. This is not the case. Over the past 45 years he’s been taking photographs of the people he meets on the London Underground, but it wasn’t until Spitalfields Life starting posting them on their blog last year that it all kicked off.

He first started taking photographs when given an Ilford Sporti for his 13th birthday, photographing throughout his studies in graphic design at Hornsey College of Art and selling the odd image to Time Out in his early 20s, while living in hippy communes off the King’s Road and in Wales. But it wasn’t until he began working as an eight millimetre projectionist at a porn cinema in the 1970s that he started conscientiously taking photographs on the London Underground.

“I answered an ad in the Evening Standard for an eight millimetre projectionist, and it was this seedy little porn cinema in King’s Cross, and that was a real education. And it was in that period that I started taking these pictures seriously. It dawned on me that I was making a record, that no one else had, and that took a good year or two for that awareness to arrive. I never saw it as a project that would end as a show in London of this nature, I really never thought like that.”

  • 1

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

  • 6

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

Many of the photographs in the exhibition are incredibly intimate, but Bob says he’s never had much trouble when it comes to taking people’s photographs. “I love relating to people, and it’s a kind of hippy ideology, but we’re all in this together. I may know nothing about you but we’re both human beings here, and we’re going through the same sort of problems in one way or another, so there can be an instant camaraderie.”

How did he spot the situations in his photographs? “I kept my eyes peeled! As soon as I went through the entrance of the Tube I set my camera to F4, 1/60th of a second, an old film camera, and that could deal with most situations, so I would be ready, often with my camera just round my chest. It was a little black Leica, it was very unobtrusive, an unthreatening little thing. Quite often they’re black, in the days when cameras were chrome and silver. And in those days photographers would even tape up their silver cameras with black tape, because it was the street thing to do. You’d didn’t want a shiny thing that said ‘I’m a photographer!’ You wanted it to disappear.”

“I kept my eyes peeled! As soon as I went through the entrance of the tube I set my camera to F4, 1/60th of a second, an old film camera, and that could deal with most situations.”

Bob Mazzer

He’s still drawn to taking photographs on forms of transport he explains, with a couple of images in the exhibition dating to just a few years ago. “I enjoy it. I do find actually that I enjoy shooting pictures from moving vehicles; if you shoot pictures and you’re on a bus, often they’re of people outside the bus, and they’re really interesting because nobody knows you’re doing it. But when you’re on the Tube, you have to kind of move inward and you photograph what’s happening around you. It’s just something I do instinctively, I can’t help myself.”

It’s this sense of instinct that gives the images their integrity, he explains, and for that reason he’d rarely go out in search of photographs. “Every now and again if I had some free time at the weekend I’d get on the Tube and say ‘well, I’ve never been to Barking,’ but usually that wouldn’t result in good pictures. What worked for me was that it just had to be part of my life. As soon as I made it a project, it stopped working. You would never really choose to go out and get on the tube at 11 at night, but sometimes you would have to come back from somewhere, and it was at those times that the interesting stuff happened, when drunk people got on the train or parties were over.

  • 7

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

“I suppose the peak period was the 80s,” he tells me, which goes some way to explaining the wealth of photographs of London’s subcultures; mods, punks, rockers and skinheads hanging out together in relative harmony. He points out one photograph of a skinhead and an early punk sharing a fag. “I love that! What amazes me about this is that I’m standing there with a camera and they don’t care. And they’re not posing, either. For me this is quite a sentimental picture. This quiet, friendly quality, and just the gesture, you know."

It’s an apt summary of an exhibition that centres around quiet moments captured by one man and his camera in London, and the show is maybe even more extraordinary because until last year, these images existed only on Bob’s Facebook page.

The exhibition of Bob Mazzer’s work will be on at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London until 13 July. Find out more on our London listings site, This at There.

  • 8

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

  • 10

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

  • 9

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

  • 11

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

  • 12

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

  • 18

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

  • 17

    Bob Mazzer: Untitled

Ms-300

Posted by Maisie Skidmore

Assistant Editor Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 and has stayed with us ever since. She has a particular interest in art, fashion and photography and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast. She also oversees our London listings guide This At There.

Most Recent: Behind The Scenes View Archive

  1. List-flyers-for-the-institute-at-sexology.-photography-by-russell-dornan_-design-by-liam-relph-(3)

    London’s Wellcome Collection space always hosts explorations of the things that fascinate us most. It’s covered death, it’s exhaustively explored the human body in all its glory and grotesquery, and now it’s moved on to surely the most fascinating of all – sex, or more precisely, how people have studied it.

  2. List

    How’s this for a collaboration? Artist Quentin Jones, who counts photography, animation, painting and filmmaking among the tools of her trade, has teamed up with spatial designer Robert Storey to create the setting for her new exhibition in the The Vinyl Factory Space on London’s Brewer Street, with Robert creating a set for each of Quentin’s works.

  3. List

    There’s a real appetite here on the internet for old black and white photos being presented in colour, but in the main they tend to focus on historic or social themes. It’s less common to see sports photography undergoing this treatment, which is why we were so struck by the work of Gooner Frog when we came across it on Facebook.

  4. List-2

    Marrying a playful typographic approach, sensitive illustrations and deliciously tactile gold foil, the cover of The Recorder is a great indication of its contents: a beautifully designed ode to typography and its omnipresence.

  5. Main

    Music publishing is in a strange place. There are certain places we go to get our fix: Dazed, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, NME, ’SUP and FACT to name but a few, but the atmosphere of the industry feels slightly scattered. Do people still want their music news in printed form when the internet will always get there first? We were curious to speak to Hanna Hanra who is the editor of BEAT magazine, on how she started, why the hell she’s doing it, and what the publication aims to do. I asked Hanna who the magazine was aimed at and she answered: “Well, myself, primarily.” Here she is…

  6. 4list.-charles-jourdan_-spring-1976-%c2%a9-guy-bourdin

    In the summer of 1979, several legs boarded a ferry travelling from Dieppe to Plymouth. However unlike most other legs making the journey, these didn’t have any feeling in their toes.

  7. Main

    No magazine gets snapped up and devoured like Apartamento when it arrives into the It’s Nice That studio – there’s something about its size, understated beauty and incomparable wit that makes it irresistable. It states that it’s an “everyday life interiors magazine,” but it’s so much more than that, providing in-depth interviews with some of the coolest people who walk on this earth, with snooping photographs of their dwellings to boot. Now on its 14th edition, I wanted to ask Omar Sosa, the magazine’s much-loved founder, a little about this issue, those in the past, and where Apartamento is headed.

  8. Main1

    Embarrassingly, I only recently realised the magic and majesty of The Paris Review. I came across it when a recent issue was illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Chris Ware. Eager to see who was responsible for this decision, I tracked down their art editor and came across Charlotte Strick. Charlotte is a fantastic, intelligent book jacket designer who is utterly seeped in the work that she makes, so much so that she writes about design almost as much as she practices it. I was keen to speak to Charlotte about what she did and what got her there, but I wasn’t prepared for the level of detail she was to go in. – she gives a truly spectacular interview. Here she is…

  9. List

    It’s a well-established fact that even the most conceptually exciting product designs can fall flat on their face if they’re photographed poorly. Imagery can often make or break these projects. And while of course this isn’t the be-all and end-all, it’s worth taking this part of the process seriously to maximise the chances of your work cutting through the noise.

  10. List

    A couple of weeks ago, Channel 4 aired a documentary (below) which saw photographer Giles Duley (himself a triple amputee) meet some of the disabled victims of the war in Syria. It was a difficult watch but an extremely important story to tell, and one that meant a lot to Giles. He got in touch to say that although The Guardian ran an in-depth piece on the same theme, he had some photographs which weren’t used that he was really keen to get out there.

  11. List

    Lawrence Zeegen has never been one to mince his words. The illustrator, writer and dean of design at London College of Communication has recently launched his new book Fifty Years Of Illustration which he co-wrote with Grafik editor Caroline Roberts. It’s an impressively ambitious undertaking with the duo condensing five decades into 1,000 images by 240 illustrators from 30 countries. Lawrence admits it’s a “pretty personal selection” but one that aims to “represent the movers and shakers across each decade according to the work I believe was instrumental in shaping the discipline.”

  12. List

    In December last year we received a zine in the post from Yorkshire-based photographer Christopher Nunn that documented a small selection of images he’d gathered in Ukraine. Kalush offered a unique perspective on a region that was thrust suddenly and violently into the public consciousness, showing us the quiet, everyday side of a place that – from television coverage at least – you’d have been forgiven for assuming was razed to the ground.

  13. Main

    Victoria Siddall has worked at Frieze for just over a decade and two years ago was made Director of Frieze Masters. Excitingly, just a few weeks ago she was appointed Director of Frieze Masters, Frieze New York and Frieze London. As well as being one of the most powerful women in the art world, Victoria is also my sister, so I was curious to find out how she’s feeling on the dawn of her new career.