• 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. Gif1

    Adam Ferriss is one of those technologically-minded creatives who is able to put his ever-growing knowledge of code and processing to use building aesthetically wondrous digital art for the rest of us to enjoy. His images make me feel like I’ve just taken some psychedelics and stepped into one of those crazy houses you get in funfairs, where there are giant optical illusions on every wall and the floor keeps moving under your feet, except these are made using algorithms and coding frameworks and, for the moment at least, they don’t exist beyond the screen.

  2. List

    Love it or loathe it, mobile phone photography is entrenched in our modern media culture. But it’s facile to lump this ever-growing phenomenon under a single umbrella, encompassing as it does everything from hipsters’ obsession with Instagramming their burgers to the vital role of smartphone-wielding citizen journalists in conflicts around the world. In recognition of the increasing importance of mobile phone photography and the numerous narratives intertwined with it, the British Journal of Photography has launched fltr, which bills itself as “the only magazine dedicated to mobile photographers.”

  3. Listnh

    Colourful costumes, coconut curries and calypso aside, at the heart of Carnival is the celebration of a community. New book Carnival: A Photographic and Testimonial History of the Notting Hill Carnival, published by Rice n Peas Publishing, champions the magic, the musicians and the makers of the Notting Hill Carnival. In it, authors Ishmahil Blagrove Jr and Margaret Busby look back at the origins of the festival in the 1950s and 60s, before crime and crowd control began to hog the headlines.

  4. List

    The best of J.G. Ballard’s fiction is incredibly divisive. On the one hand readers are often disgusted by his brutality; an unparalleled ability to paint a picture of the world that is at once alluring and repulsive. On the other, devotees love that about him. As a result he encourages a near-obsessive loyalty among fans, for a body of work so distinct it’s been awarded its own adjective by the Oxford English Dictionary.

  5. Main9

    I’ve rarely spent as much time on an artist’s site as I did on Pooneh’s when first stumbling across it. Scrolling through her reams and reams of photographs is akin to waking up at a festival and trying to piece together flashbacks of the night before like some sort of stained, star-studded puzzle.

  6. Patlist

    Taking on the art direction of a musical installation touring about British woodlands sounds like a somewhat complex task. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what a musical installation set amongst trees would even involve. I assumed it wasn’t anything to do with singing pixies.

  7. Main67

    The curious work of Corinne Day seems to rear its ever-appealing head every now and again, just to remind us of a time gone by that we weren’t part of, and will never fully understand. Gaining worldwide notoriety with her famous, career-making shots of a teen Kate Moss on Camber Sands for The Face, Corinne’s groundbreaking photographs of quintessentially British, black-soled urchins were to become stuff of legend. Contrived shoots of hired models were never her thing, instead Corinne lifted her lens to those closest to her – the ones doing the washing up, smoking fags out of windows, watching telly. The fact that all her friends were rebellious models was just a bonus.

  8. Salva3list

    From the way Marjorie Salvaterra describes how she works, she could be taken for an author, a screenwriter or a director. Like a writer waiting for a stroke of inspiration, this American actress-turned-photographer says “I mostly wait for images to come into my head before I shoot them, which can mean I don’t shoot for weeks at a time!”

  9. Bs1list

    In films, books, plays and works of art, one item can become piled high with layers of meaning; Desdemona’s handkerchief, Matisse’s apple, Dorothy’s ruby slippers. In Lucy Hilmer’s photography series Birthday Suits, one pair of white pants comes to stand for more than itself. Baring almost all, Lucy stands before the camera; sometimes defiant, sometimes distressed, most often smiling. There’s something deeply personal and poetic about these pictures which made me want to learn more about the woman – and the pants – at the centre of them. So over to Lucy, who answers a few of my questions.

  10. Jack_list

    Ever since he was a wee lad (Jack was an It’s Nice That Graduate in the summer of 2009) Jack Featherstone has been impressing us with his record sleeve designs and music videos, made for the likes of Holden and Simian Mobile Disco. Spying a pair of new sleeves and a brand spanking new video for Hachinoko by Jas and James – the pair behind Simian Mobile Disco – we decided to ask Jack a few questions on how he does his stuff.

  11. List

    Almost exactly a calendar year ago we introduced Dan Woodger on It’s Nice That; showed off his desk-space, his process and some of his skateboarding Dinosaurs. Six months later he was contacted by an art director who’d seen that article and enlisted him to produce one of the most labour-intensive illustration projects we’ve ever come across, creating over 1000 unique images for an emoji app. By way of apology for this torturous commission, we asked him a few questions about how it went…

  12. Main1

    Think about the sheer amount of books, articles, lectures and podcasts there must be floating around the earth on what makes a good record sleeve. We tend to consult designers, or record labels about the images that, thrown against sound, create something that sticks with you your whole life, that you could probably draw from memory. It’s rare when get an artist who creates the music and the artwork that makes it shine, but Tim Presley does.

  13. List-2

    I’m sure there are plenty of documentary photographers for whom going to Brazil to capture the World Cup would be something of a dream, but as far as I’m concerned none of them even come close to the exceptional Jane Stockdale. After having her application to photograph the crowds watching the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow turned down three times, she decided to take matters into her own hands, and jumped on a plane to Brazil to shoot audiences there instead.