Sunday Morning Stroll With John Claridge
Legs, Spitalfields 1960
Shall we join photographer John Claridge for an early Sunday morning stroll through the East End? Maybe John is coming back at daybreak from a party in Chelsea that he went to one Saturday night in 1960 and he stopped of at Rinkoff’s in Vallance Rd for a smoked salmon beigel on his way home to Plaistow? And maybe he looked up at a window in Spitalfields and saw these legs, and to this day he does not know if they were real or a mannequin? Or maybe John was out on his paper-round early one snowy day in the harsh winter of 1961 and he noticed an old bike frame abandoned on the Sewer Bank, and just in that moment it looked like a horse? Or maybe John was riding his motorbike along Narrow St in the dawn mist in 1963 and saw a ship emerging like a vision from the fog, and he stopped and got off his bike to capture it with his camera?
There is no doubt that John is a man of an early morning disposition, as these pictures – published here for the first time – testify. In John’s youth, when the London Docks were still in operation and the East End was full of manufacturing, people went to work early and the streets were crowded at six or even earlier on weekdays, yet Sunday morning stood in contrast as the time when there was almost nobody out. This was when John chose to explore with his camera, delighting in the surrealism of these hours at the crack of dawn when familiar places became strange and the territory was his alone. And the smog, and the fog, and the smoke, and the early morning mist all contributed to the melancholy beauty that John photographed in these soulful East End streets, when – emptied of people – they became the landscape of his dreaming.
Wapping, 1963 - “Can you see the ship just entering the river?”
White dog, E13 1978 - “A little bull terrier looking at the world.”
Hough’s Wharf in Narrow St, 1963.
Back door in Spitalfields, 1982 - “There was obviously a gate that had gone, and then they got this big door from a factory and wedged it in place.”
Three cranes, E16 1962 - “That morning light again, it just smells nice. There’s smoke in the distance, something was working.”
Queens Rd Market, E13 1959 - “I wonder what happened to all the old trolleys.”
Warehouse, Silvertown, 1963 - “I got off my motorbike, just to watch the light coming up in the mist.”
Horse, Sewer Bank Plaistow, 1961.
Torn Curtain, Spitalfields 1964 - “I walked by and I thought this was almost a piece of modern art – that very cheap plasticky ragged curtain was very beautiful in contrast with the bricks around it.”
Upton Park Station, E13 1969 - “There used to be old ladies sitting in there by the fire.”
Pie & Mash Shop, London Fields 1966.
Under the Railway, E2 1982 - “Drunks slept down there under the arches.”
Pony Cart, Spitalfields 1968 - “This guy kept this pony and on Sunday mornings he went for a ride.”
Dockside, E16 1968 – “It looks like they started work on the building and then left it.”
Gents, E14 1982 - “Very early morning when the street light hadn’t yet gone off.”
It’s Great, E3 1982 – “A fair set up on an old bombsite and I thought it was fucking ace.”
The Bridge, E14 1963.
Drain, E1 1970 – “I want to know what a 20% incline sign was doing in Wapping when there is no such gradient in the East End.”
Early morning fishermen on the Regent’s Canal beside Victoria Park, 1972. -“I asked this man, ‘Have you caught anything?’ He said, ‘I haven’t got a bait, I just like sitting here.’ You can’t argue with that.”
Photographs copyright © John Claridge
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