Rattle and Roll

One of my favourite black and white images from the Under London photo essay, taken on London Underground's Central Line late one evening in the mid 1980's. This image is sharply evocative for me of years of Tube trips rattling and rolling back up the Northern Line towards Highgate or Bounds Green on the Piccadilly Line in deserted (or choked-full) carriages late at night… (this one happens to be a Central Line train, which was not a line I took nearly as often at this time of day, though). I can easily hear this image thirty-five years later. And that grainy black and white evokes my 1980's London for me in ways few other things can do quite so immediately. Every time I look at it it's so definitely a photo from a long-gone era, and it's not just the grainy black and white — the interior styling of the Tube carriage, the harsh lighting, the boxy angles, etc. — things I associate (not particularly nostalgically) with the end of the Punk and New Wave and Post-Punk era (I had musical connections in that life and the one before it).

One of the things that has to be said about images like this is that it was difficult taking photos on the Underground. Not only was it illegal (as I was told countless times, with varying levels of hostility and / or officiousness (and sometimes even amused friendliness!) by everyone from London Underground staff to random police officers seemingly any time I tried), it always involved very low levels of light and fast (grainy) film, and (very often) crowds of people jostling you and getting in the way (or making it clear they really did not want you taking photos of them or anything else, thank you). Combined with my natural self-consciousness, this meant that I took far fewer photos of people on the Underground than I now wish I had… all those missed opportunities. Oh well. At least this one captures something of my experience of that era and the everyday realities of late night on a deserted Tube train.

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