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In Another World With John Claridge

July 31, 2012
by the gentle author

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.

LABYRINTH, E16 1982.

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

You may also like to take a look at

John Claridge’s East End

Along the Thames with John Claridge

At the Salvation Army with John Claridge

In a Lonely Place

A Few Diversions by John Claridge

This was my Landscape

John Claridge’s Spent Moments

Signs, Posters, Typography & Graphics

Working People & a Dog

Invasion of the Monoliths

Time Out with John Claridge

Views from a Dinghy by John Claridge

People on the Street & a Cat

19 Responses leave one →
  1. July 31, 2012

    Another great set of images John, all your pictures rank alongside the pictures taken by Frank Sutcliffe and others. They are visions of a bygone age, a window on our past. They should be preserved and also published for future generations to see. Brill…. G

  2. JanieB permalink
    July 31, 2012

    Another set of cleverly-captioned, wonderful photographs from John. Fabulous!

  3. cindy hacker permalink
    July 31, 2012

    A majestic record of heroic constructions from a bygone age.

  4. Matt Johnson permalink
    July 31, 2012

    I think John has outdone himself. For me, these are the best set of photos so far. I also know exactly what he means when he mentions “another world” as the emotions stirred up are somehow so familiar to my subconscious yet so alien to my conscious mind, the latter having become somehow anaesthetised to the rapid pace of continual change we’ve faced in this country. Sometimes, it is easy to forgot who you are and where you come from, but moments of stillness can soon bring long lost memories pouring forth, often triggered by sounds, smells, music or, of course, images such as these.

  5. July 31, 2012

    Where have all the people gone? It’s just like a post apocalyptic Sci-Fi scene. John – you are legend! I particularly like ‘Detour’ – it has an almost 3D effect, and ‘Graveyard’ – that Jag would be worth a small fortune now and even one of the Ford Pops would be more than the price of a curry. Excellent pictures.

  6. Lee permalink
    July 31, 2012

    Classic Images !

    Love the shot of the old Jaguar buried at the Graveyard E16 1975

    Lee

  7. July 31, 2012

    Oh John yet more wonderful pictures I hope you keep digging in that seemingly never ending file and keep sending these out – they are a joy! I know I keep saying it,but they all need to be in a book!

  8. July 31, 2012

    Wonderful stories, amazing images, the observations from John Claridge comes from the heart, I hope there’s more to come in the near future.
    John is one of the most iconic photographers I have come across.

    Thanks for showing us John.

    J

  9. Kev O'Neill permalink
    July 31, 2012

    You know you’re getting old when you know the make and model of every car
    in the scrapper! Love the pics as ever,John.

  10. Alice permalink
    July 31, 2012

    Woohoo you’re back! I have always been intrigued and fascintated by gasometres and what a treat to see some lovely shots of these amazing structures.

    I really love ‘Unloaded’, it has such an ethereal quality, a real texture to it.

    Keep them coming JC!

  11. Chris F permalink
    July 31, 2012

    Everything that Gerry and Matt J said and more… I lived in that world for many years. I now find my peace and contentment in a four acre meadow owned by my parents in law.

  12. July 31, 2012

    The Castle one looked like a giant Space Invaders game!! Great set of images John!!

    DGS xx

  13. Ros permalink
    August 1, 2012

    What marvellous compositions these photographs are. They send shivers down my spine. What an eye and what an imagination John Claridge has.

  14. Olga Secerov permalink
    August 1, 2012

    these images are always fascinating. Every one is unique and tells me something different about the East End. The Castle is so overwhelming, I can’t imagine what happened in there.

  15. gerhard dusek permalink
    August 2, 2012

    nice pics

  16. August 2, 2012

    Astonishing how, amidst such grime and dereliction, JC”s lens
    conjures up such a brooding atmosphere of a once omnipotent empire
    now fallen into disrepair . . . truly, reflections of another world . . .

  17. Cindy S. permalink
    August 3, 2012

    As observed by Roger in an earlier post, we see how both John and the landscape are evolving. John revisits his ‘World’ in the 80’s with a fresh approach. The people may have gone along with the gritty immediacy of the handheld 35mm. Replaced by the beautifully crafted images John shares with us from beneath a dark-cloth.
    A precious body of work. Thank you John- Inspirational.

  18. August 5, 2012

    gasworks, cranes, scrapyards, bridges, buildings – great contrast and shadows and composition! – evocative

  19. john edwards permalink
    September 5, 2012

    The mighty gas container sodium lit; signifies through the night, as a magnified castle by Giotto. Jump to the War of The World’s – Wells meet Welles in Chirico time train overlooked by the Bauhaus brutal
    signal box erie, upline, downline, the beat of The Downliner’s Sect as that whooping smoke belching midnight rambler rattles and rolls through the land of metal and blackened brick, keep out You – wall eyed walls – all to ‘kettle’ the w0rking man, woman and child.
    The Bell Foundry [ f; 1420 present loc. 1583 ] is there, it’s chains clack and shrill like shingle rolled in surf or Nancy Cunard’s bangles, still casting musical pearls across the world, of lowing herd and shepherds everywhere.
    John was on that fast moving train and shot the moment. The two barges seem to be dreaming half asleep, huddled together and so in love …. and on JC goes along with Beckett, Camus, Orwell, Fellini,
    Greene, Jim Thompson …. Whistle & I’ll Come To You. Gnarly stuff Johnny.

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