The London Underground is all about chance. Making a change or catching the last train can be decided within a matter of seconds. It’s home to lucky encounters in a world of right place, right time, and Mike Goldwater was there to capture it all throughout the 70s.
Published by Hoxton Mini Press as part of its Vintage Britain collection, London Underground: 1970-1980 comprises Goldwater’s series of black and white photographs taken around London’s Tube network. Babies and buskers, school friends and football fans all have their time in the spotlight, though many were often unaware that Goldwater was taking their picture – he purposefully avoided the watchful eye of Underground staff, who would’ve turfed him out had they known what he was up to.
The photo book captures subtle remnants of the past: tickets being sold from a window hatch and then presented at a barrier for manual inspection. Posters advertising Grease or Apocalypse Now the first time around. The now disused Aldwych Tube station operating in full swing, before it closed to the public in 1994.
“Some stations were lit only by individual hanging bulbs in white light shades, immersing travellers in a dim, Hades-like gloom,” arts writer Lucy Davies notes in the introduction. “It made taking photographs incredibly difficult, forcing Goldwater to function at the very limit of his film’s capabilities, but it gives his pictures a wonderfully brooding, unearthly cast.”
The days of poor lighting and rickety carriages filled with cigarette smoke might be behind us, yet remnants of the 1970s Underground captured by Goldwater remain here and there today: particularly in the Tube’s iconic seat covers and its ongoing charming, if chaotic atmosphere.
London Underground 1970-1980 by Mike Goldwater is published by Hoxton Mini Press on November 7; hoxtonminipress.com