At the Salvation Army in the Eighties
This candid set of pictures by photographer John Claridge, published here for the first time, were taken in the Salvation Army hostels in Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Hoxton during the eighties, but they are just a selection of those he has taken over the decades for this most famous of East End institutions. “I’m not a religious person but I think the Salvation Army do a fantastic job.” John admitted to me, “So I said, ‘yes,’ when I was asked to do some charity work for them and the relationship lasted over forty years.”
Observing this compassionate endeavour through changing times, John recognises an equilibrium in the nature of the care. “The Salvation Army is a constant world – though some of the causes may be different, nowadays more drugs than alcohol – the people are the same, there’s still the same need.” he told me, as we contemplated these pictures together.
John was determined to maintain the dignity of those he was photographing, despite their circumstances. “It’s not right to intrude on a person’s life but you have to be able say, ‘This is the world we live in,’” he assured me,“And there is a responsibility to try to do that right. Just because somebody has got into this situation, it doesn’t make them a bad person.”
“There’s some sad things here, but there is also a kind of survival and a little bit of humour.” he added, eager to emphasise the resilience of his subjects and create a tender intimacy with the viewer, “If you’re doing something for a charity, you don’t want to set things up. It’s documentary photography but you need people to feel it too. You need to people to think – you might end up here.”
Photographs copyright © John Claridge
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