In Another World With John Claridge
INTO THE NIGHT, E3 1987
“Sometimes, I speak with my mates and they say, ‘We’ve come from another world,’” John Claridge admitted to me in astonishment, recalling his origins in the post-war East End and introducing this latest set of pictures, published here for the first time. To create the series, John has been revisiting his old negatives, printing photographs that he took decades ago and surprising himself by the renewed acquaintance with lost visions of that other world, unseen since the moment the shutter fell. Yet even in his youth, John was drawn to the otherness that existed in his familiar landscape, transformed through his lens into a strange environment of dark brooding beauty – inflected by his passion for surrealism, the writing of Franz Kafka and film noir.
“It’s difficult for me to explain why I am attracted to things.” John confessed, “I was off doing other work, producing commercial photography and making films, but I never stopped taking pictures of the East End. Some of these images have never been printed before, and it’s strange when I see the prints now because I have a good memory of taking them, even though I had forgotten how much I had done.”
Always alert to the dramatic potential of the cityscape, John recognised that the magnificence of a gasometer could be best appreciated when photographed by moonlight – in John’s mind’s eye, every location proposed a scenario of imaginative possibility. The images you see here are those that burned themselves onto his consciousness, stills from his photographic dreaming, and when we look at them we can share his reverie and construct our own fictions. His titles read like the titles of grand narratives, firing the poetic imagination to enter another, dystopian, world where industrial buildings become prisons and monumental landscapes are ravaged by unexplained derelection.
John knew the East End when it was still scarred from the bombing of World War II and then he witnessed the slum clearances, the closure of the docks, the end of manufacturing and the tide of redevelopment that overtook it all. His soulful urban landscapes record decisive moments within decades of epic transformation that altered the appearance of the territory forever. “Some things needed changing, though not all the demolition that happened was necessary,” John informed me. Then, regretful of the loss of that other world yet mindful of the resilience of the psyche, he continued his thought, adding - “but people have a spirit and you can’t break that.”
IT TOLLS FOR THEE, Whitechapel Bell Foundry 1982.
SILVER TOWERS, E16 1982.
DE CHIRICO ARCHES, E16 1982.
IN THE SHADOW, E3 1961.
GRAVEYARD, E16 1975.
WATCHTOWER, Spitalfields 1982. “If you look at from where I was standing, you might expect to see someone trying to escape and a guard firing a machine gun from the watchtower.”
THE HOOK, Whitechapel Bell Foundry 1982.
UNLOADED, E16 1962.
DETOUR, E16 1964.
NO ENTRANCE, E13 1962.
BEYOND THE BRIDGE, E16 1978.
THE WINDOW, E16 1982.
DARK CORNER, E16 1987.
BLIND SPOT, E16 1987.
CAPTIVE CITY, E3 1959.
PIER D, E16 1982.
THE CASTLE, E16 1987 - “It has a mocking face!”
THE LONG WALK, E16 1982.
Photographs copyright © John Claridge
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