Mike Goldwater publishes his stunning photos documenting the London Underground, taken over the course of the decade, showing us how the heartbeat of London has changed, and yet, barely changed at all.
Below the bustling city of London, below all the shuffling feet, buzzing buses and careering cabs, lies the pounding heart of our metropolis.
The London Underground.
Since it’s birth in 1863, it’s been one of the key inventions that has seen London evolve into one of the world’s most thriving cities, and just as everything in society, it drives changes whilst simultaneously changing itself.
So how much of the life on the tube can you remember in the 1970s?
Thanks to the brilliant work of photographer Mike Goldwater, he allows us to indulge in nostaglia, indulge in times before the iPhone epidemic of crooked necks and sullen faces; documenting the tube over the course of 10 years, his work shows just how much society has moved on, and also how some things stay the same.
Back when it was legal to puff on a cigarette on the underground, Goldwater’s photography brings us back to the old signposting, with the large ticket machines selling 25p passes (not three coins!); a sight unthinkable in today’s times.
It shows a train conductor hanging out of his carriage with a pipe poking out of his mouth, with the large lapel of a man on the advertising board peering through the glass, in a scene of almost repugnant British cliché.
But perhaps what strikes us more than anything is the smiles seen in most of the photos. If a man was hanging around the underground with a camera these days, taking unassuming photos of commuters, you’d be lucky to recieve anything less than bang to your honker!
But people seem happy for the shots to be taken, whether they are on their way to enjoy a Friday night out in London, or simply making their way to work, perhaps before cameras were as widely used, there was a larger appetite to be documented, more excitement at the thought of their moment being captured.
Below is one of our favourite shots from the project, so candid you might assume it was framed, with time hanging above the escalators, promising you that, “NOW is the time to…try Pearl”, two young workers shared a moment before returning up to the bustling city above.
There are certainly stranger moments within the project also, as a bearded man in tweed cradles his cat waiting for the tube, which probably wouldn’t fly today.
However, as technology has completely changed our lives, with everything running to extreme efficiency, and patience running extremely thin, the world has exponentially opened through the internet and iPhones, making the world before such inventions seem almost alien.
But the narrative of these photos, and what we really take away from this project, is that the heart and spirit of the people of London has not changed that much at all.
You can see each person sat on a tube today, whether it be a forlorn expression of fatigue across someone’s face, a scratching of the brow, or a mind engrossed in the daily news; these photos have more in common than they have differences.
The homelessness for example, represented by this elderly man below, selling match boxes in the hope of making a few quid.
The barrage of advertisement throughout the network, of billboards and posters, and the mischievous kids wreaking havoc on the bannisters.
The irritated onlooker, who’s train has been cancelled for the fourth time…
Or the hoards of grumpy football fans who squish into a scrum sporting sour faces, after their teams get whooped, and the sinking feeling you get when you realise you’ve decided to leave at the exact time that Stamford Bridge empties it’s bowels.
And finally the tired travellers, weary from the day, just wishing to get home, get the dinner on and watch some telly.
As time moves on, and society warps and changes, it’s the spirit of the Londoner that remains.
Frequently sullen and tired, but resilient in the face of the rain, the cold, delays and the hard mornings with your face shoved into some mans armpit…
Regardless, the Londoner trudges on!
All photos are available in Goldwater’s book London Underground 1970-1980, published by Hoxton Mini Press.