Watch: Fullbleed Film: Bob Mazzer’s Underground & Other Pictures

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Sleeping © Bob Mazzer, courtesy of Howard Griffin Gallery

03 August 2017 |British Journal of Photography

“Following our introduction of FullBleed TV, the BJP’s co-produced channel on photographers, we take a look at another of the channel’s short documentary features covering the story of British photographer Bob Mazzer and his iconic, four decade project of life on the London tube.

The Howard Griffin Gallery says, “Mazzer captures the subcultures, fashion and diversity of London life; the 1980s punks and rockers in studded leather jackets, couples in love, the mad, the lonely and the dispossessed. These anonymous photos are at the same time tender and tough, captivating the viewer with a myriad of poetic moments.”

Introducing Mazzer as a man who has completely dedicated his life to the craft, the documentary begins by shedding some light on the first photographs that inaugurated the man on his journey to capturing the most iconic images of the London Underground.

“The first serious pictures I shot were in the States in 1969… I always considered them to be shot with an innocent eye” he says of a trait that he has carried with him and nurtured since his first delve into “serious” photography at the age of 21.

The film was made by award winning director Richard Butchins, who travelled to the south coast to find Mazzer and film him for the project. He used different techniques and hidden cameras to weave between the shingle on the coast and life in the trains on the current Underground.

Butchins says, “I wanted to make a film about Bob Mazzer because I felt he’d captured an era of London life that has vanished, and he has done it with wit and beauty. I really like the fact that he lives next to the sea, which is as far removed from life in an underground tunnel as you can get – and yet it’s strangely symbiotic. He is, I suppose, the last of a generation of street photographers wedded to film and the past. Bob made beautiful images that evoke personal freedom over corporate dominance.”

After his stint in the US, Mazzer returned to London to be with his father and found a job as a projectionist in a porn cinema, close to King’s Cross. This was the catalyst that led him into the London Underground – his new daily commute.

“It meant that I was then, nearly every day, travelling to and from King’s Cross on the tube from Manor House, and I had my camera with me; so I just started to shoot pictures.”

Given his relentless dedication and ceaseless obsession with the subject matter, Mazzer soon became a part of the Underground and hid behind the face of his black Leica, merging with his surroundings and going unnoticed to commuters. “I began to develop a real fascination and love for the Underground and started to feel, after a few months of this, that it really was mine, that I was the party photographer in the big underground party that was happening 24 hours a day.”

What results is an extraordinarily honest and quintessentially humorous series of photographs depicting the variety of life found thriving through the tunnels of the London Underground.

Spanning over a period of over four decades from the 70s to the modern day, Mazzer’s photographs are both a reminder of how quickly the aesthetics in the bustling city can change, and yet of how easily a culture or state of mind can remain set in stone.

Made by FullBleed director Richard Butchins and produced by its founder Jude Edginton, the film is available to watch on FullBleed.tv. To see more FullBleed films, sign up to FullBleed’s channel and keep an eye on BJP’s Twitter and Facebook for new releases.

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