The Tube — a pic­to­rial record

Pho­tog­ra­pher BobMazzer re­flects on his long-time fas­ci­na­tion with life on the Lon­don Un­der­ground

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

en­gi­neer­ing. And I am in­ter­ested in both.”

Born in the Royal Lon­don Hospi­tal in Whitechapel, Mazzer grew up in Manor House, next to the Bern­hard Baron Set­tle­ment — an area of tremen­dous so­cial change for Jews in the 50s and 60s un­der the re­former Basil Hen­riques.

He re­ceived his first cam­era for his bar­mitz­vah — “a lit­tle plas­tic tin thing” — and im­me­di­ately started doc­u­ment­ing the faces and places around him. But it was not un­til his later teens that he de­cided to take up pho­tog­ra­phy as an art form, even­tu­ally study­ing at Hornsey Col­lege of Art.

“I was never re­ally in­ter­ested in mak­ing a liv­ing out of it,” he re­calls. “As an artist, you just have this voice in­side you telling you ‘this is mean­ing­ful — take the pic­ture’. I think the cam­era is the best tool for ex­plain­ing man to him­self.”

For a while, pho­tog­ra­phy re­mained a hobby while he led an “al­ter­na­tive

‘YOU CAN SEE PEOPLE SMOOCHING, KICK­ING OFF OR JUST BE­ING NON­PLUSSED’

life­style” in Wales. “That was most def­i­nitely not a Jewish area,” he says. “We were a bunch of hip­pies sit­ting on a rooftop.”

Mazzer sup­ple­mented his pas­sion with odd jobs in­clud­ing har­vest­ing Christ­mas trees and work­ing in an an­i­mal feed fac­tory.

It was only when he re­turned to Manor House and took a job as a pro­jec­tion­ist at an adult film cin­ema in Kings Cross that he truly be­gan to use his cam­era as a con­stant recorder of ev­ery­day life.

“That job was an amaz­ing ed­u­ca­tion, just from the kinds of people you would see turn­ing up and leav­ing. I would travel home late ev­ery night on the Tube and wit­ness this amaz­ing party feel­ing on the plat­form, and with­out re­ally think­ing about it I just started to take pic­tures. I was also able to build a dark­room with the money I made.”

For Mazzer, the Un­der­ground has al­ways served as a fer­tile source of in­spi­ra­tion, cap­tur­ing the hu­man con­di­tion at all ex­tremes and un­sus­pect­ing mo­ments.

“You can see people down there smooching, kick­ing off, or just be­ing g to­tally non­plussed,” he says. “There There isn’t a lot of space be­tween you and the next per­son and you can’t get away. It’s a place where we all get squashed to­gether and we just have to put up with it.”

He has met his fair share of colourful char­ac­ters down the years. But he has rarely felt the need to cen­sor his work, or turn the cam­era away from a scene.

“I like to en­gage with people and un­less there was some­thing ob­vi­ously pri­vate go­ing on, I would reg­u­larly ap­proach them m and ask to take their pho­to­graph. . You can nor­mally tell who wants s at­ten­tion.

“And you all be­come part of f the same herd, shar­ing that very ry in­ti­mate en­vi­ron­ment. There’s a close­ness be­tween you. But then, n, of course, you’re re­leased back into the wild, never to be seen again.” Bob Mazzer’s Un­der­ground is pub­lished by Spi­tal­fields Life. His ex­hi­bi­tion is at Howard Grif­fin Gallery, 189 Shored­itch High St, Lon­don E1 un­til July 13

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