A Few Diversions by John Claridge
The Daily Message in E3, 1972
Taken between 1959 and 1982, and published here for the first time, each one of these East End pictures by John Claridge contains a diversion of some kind – either illustrating an activity that is incidental to the flow of life or presenting an observation that is itself a distraction. “These are small incidents, humdrum diversions like going to the hairdresser or the baths, not shattering moments but part of the life of the community all the same,” he assured me. Yet although these sly visual anecdotes may refer to marginal or quotidian experiences, they can sometimes reveal as much or more about the texture and tenor of their times than any news photo of the day.
John collected his observations of life out of a fascination to explore the strange poetry of existence, revealing his interest in reflections upon images seen through glass, his passion for lettering and design, and especially his delight in people. He takes pleasure in observing how they inhabit a place, and how they show their creativity when they strive to make themselves at home, even in the most unlikely or inopportune of circumstances.
Bridalwear shop, Spitalfields 1966. “Wherever you went at that time, there was always a bridal shop.”
Twenty past one? Spitalfields 1967. “You couldn’t design it better!”
American wrestler and trainer, Walthamstow Town Hall 1982. “They asked me to take the picture.”
Barbers, Spitalfields 1964. (note spelling of ‘closing’)
Accordion player, Spitalfields, 1970. “He was playing under an arch and the sound drifted around, it was wonderful.”
Corsetiere, Whitechapel 1961. “A man came up to me while I was doing this and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m taking a picture,’ I said. ‘There’s something wrong with you, lad,’ he replied.”
East Ham baths, E6 1961. “After Saturday morning football, we always went to East Ham baths to have a bath.”
Football in the street, Spitalfields 1959.
Sweet kiosk, Spitalfields 1967. “See my reflection in this picture. She was so proud. Afterwards, she and her friends came out to be photographed.”
Snack bar – cold drinks, Spitalfields 1982.
Boy on a rocking horse, E2 1982. “Look at the conditions he’s living in. The bars look like a prison and he’s got nowhere to go.”
At the 59 bikers’ club, E9 1973. Founded by Father William Shergold, biker priest, in 1959 to bring mods and rockers together.
Lady on the balcony, Spitalfields 1962. “Her diversion for the day was standing there and watching the world go by.”
Windmill seller, E2 1961.
Washing day, E14 1961. “I just came out of my girlfriend’s house and she said, ‘Look, it’s washday across the road.’”
Man with jobs poster, Spitalfields 1963. “I asked him, ‘Are you alright for a couple of bob?’ and he sat in the sun for me for a moment.”
Ear piercing, Spitalfields 1964. Is this ear piercing done to people over five years of age, or has the jeweller been piercing ears since five years of age?
Hotdog van, Spitalfields 1961.
Cup of tea, Spitalfields 1964. “Settled onto this old sofa in the market, enjoying his cup of tea, he looks like he should be wearing an eighteenth century wig and coat.”
Photographs copyright © John Claridge
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