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Mitra Tabrizian’s photos for Art on the Underground explore London’s “invisible” individuals

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Mitra Tabrizian: you don’t know what nights are like? (crop)

Renowned British-Iranian photographer and film-maker Mitra Tabrizian has photographed a campaign for Art on the Underground, exploring the lives of night-time workers in London. Titled you don’t know what nights are like? the commission comprises two large-scale images, which will be displayed at Southwark Underground station as part of Transport for London’s art programme.

For the project, Mitra was asked to explore the 24-hour nature of London and chose to focus on night-time workers. She interviewed a number of people who regularly work nights in the city, using the conversations as inspiration for two panoramic photographs. The first shows one of the interviewees, Laura – who has worked as a security guard for 15 years – walking in an empty landscape at twilight.

The second image is devoid of people, showing an isolated building at dawn, which according to Art on the Underground “stands for a wider community of night-time workers as if they are on the edge of the city.”

“I wanted to focus on the night-time workers, and the effect that working long hours has on their lives,” says Mitra. “Some have been working 12-hour shifts for 16 years. Fragments of the interviews are used to depict ‘interiority’ – interior emotional states of the individuals who are living on the margins, running the infrastructure of the city, and yet remaining invisible.”

The project aims to “bring the margin to the centre, to indicate the significance of the people whose work is essential to London’s existence, without which the city would not survive”. The title is an excerpt from one of the interviews.

Tehran-born Mitra is known for her moving works about exile, migration, youth unemployment and other political issues in both Iran and London, where she is based. She had a solo exhibition at Tate Britain in 2008, was awarded the Royal Academy Rose Award for Photography in 2013 and will release her first feature film Gholam this year.

you don’t know what nights are like? is on view from today until 2018.

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Mitra Tabrizian: you don’t know what nights are like?

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Mitra Tabrizian: you don’t know what nights are like?

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Mitra Tabrizian: you don’t know what nights are like?

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Mitra Tabrizian: you don’t know what nights are like?

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Mitra Tabrizian: you don’t know what nights are like?