Captivating nostalgia on the London Underground in the 1970s
Mike Goldwater, a photographer who was born and raised in a north London suburb, is a local with the underground engrained in his daily life.
Having made the Northern Line part of his daily life from a young age when travelling to school in Hampstead, Goldwater has fond memories of racing his friends down the 320-step spiral staircase to the bottom of London’s deepest tube line.
Slowly but surely, as he decided to climb on and off different trains, Goldwater began carrying his camera around with him and documenting daily life on the Underground. What ensued was a major project which lasted ten years, capturing the developing social norms we’ve come to understand on Britains’ busiest public transport.
“Goldwater had no destination at all; he’d climb on and off the trains, change lines, stop for a moment in the booking halls and tunnels, but he was always set apart; the discreet onlooker, sensitive to the grand gestures and minor details of life as it unfolded before his camera,” Lucy Davies writes in the introduction to London Underground 1970-1980, the new book collecting Goldwater’s images. “It is a measure of his skill that the photographs often seem like staged tableaux, especially in the way the figures are positioned. Each shape, shadow and outline has a role.
“At busy times, the way in which people negotiate and preserve their modicum of space when they are forced into close proximity often made interesting pictures. He watched particularly for any quirky interactions. A snatched kiss, a conversation. A yawn, a sly glance. People who are tired, people who are drunk, people who are lost in thought. Match days and rush hours were a goldmine, but so were lone travellers on empty platforms.”
Goldwaters’ series began in 1970 and ended in 1980, ten years of developing his career and forming relationships. Below, enjoy a small glimpse inside the collection.