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Working People & a Dog

August 28, 2013
by the gentle author

Groundsman, E.15 (1965)

“This is the groundsman at the Memorial Ground where I played football aged ten in 1954.”

Some of my favourite people are the shopkeepers and those that do the small trades – who between them have contributed the major part to the identity of the East End over the years. And when I see their old premises redeveloped, I often think in regret, “I wish someone had gone round and taken portraits of these people who carried the spirit of the place.” So you can imagine my delight and gratitude to see this splendid set of photos and discover that during the sixties photographer John Claridge had the insight to take such pictures, exactly as I had hoped.

When John went back ten years later to the pitch near West Ham Station where he played football as a child, he found the groundsman was just as he remembered, with his cardigan and tie, and he took the photograph you see above. There is a dignified modesty to this fine portrait – a quality shared by all of those published here – expressed through a relaxed demeanour.

These subjects present themselves to John’s lens as emotionally open yet retaining possession of themselves, and this translates into a vital relationship with the viewer. To each of these people, John was one of their own kind and they were comfortable being photographed by him. And, thanks to the humanity of John’s vision, we have the privilege to become party to this intimacy today.

Kosher Butcher, E2 (1962) - “The chicken was none too happy!”

Brewery, Spitalfields (1964) Clocking in at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane.

Lady with Gumball Machine, Spitalfields (1967) - “She came out of her kiosk and asked, ‘Will you photograph me with my gumball machine?’”

Saveloy Stall, Spitalfields (1967) - “It was a cold day, so I had two hot dogs.”

Whitechapel Bell Foundry, E1 (1982) Established in 1598, where the Liberty Bell and Big Ben were cast.

Rag & Bone Man, E13 (1961) - “Down my street in Plaistow, there were not many cars about – all you could hear was the clip-clop of the horse on the wet road.”

Shoe Repairs Closed Saturday, Spitalfields (1969) - “I asked, ‘Why are you open on Saturday?’ He replied, ‘I was just busy.’”

Spice, E1 (1976) - “Taken at a spice warehouse in Wapping.  The smells were fantastic, you could smell it down the street.”

Portrait, Spitalfields (1966) - “This is a group portrait of friends outside of their shop. The two brothers who ran the shop, the lady who worked round the corner and the guy who worked in the back.”

Anglo Pak Muslim Butcher, E2 (1962)

Butchers, Spitalfields (1966) -”I had just finished taking a picture next door, when this lady came out with a joint of meat and asked me to take her photograph with it.”

Fishmongers, E1 (1966) Early morning, unloading fish from Grimsby.

Beigel Baker, E2 (1967) -”After a party at about four or five in the morning, we used to end up at Rinkoff’s in Vallance Rd for smoked salmon beigels.”

Newsagent, Spitalfields (1966) -”I said, ‘Shame about Walt Disney dying, can I take your picture next to it?’ and he said, ‘Alright.’”

Selling Shoes, Spitafields (1963) - “My dad used to tell me what his dad told him, ‘If you’ve got a good pair of shoes, you own the world.’”

Strudel, E2 (1962) - “You’ll like this, boy!’ I had just taken a photograph outside this lady’s shop. I said, ‘I think your window looks beautiful.’ and she asked me in for a slice of apple strudel. It was fantastic!  But she would not accept any money, it was a gift. She said, ‘You took a picture of my shop.’”

Number 92, Spitalfields (1964)

Tubby Isaac’s, Spitalfields (1982) - “Aaahhh Tubby’s, where I’ve had many a fine eel.”

Junkyard Dog, E16 (1982) - “I was climbing over the wall into this junkyard.  All was quiet, when I noticed this pair of forbidding eyes – then I made my exit.”

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

8 Responses leave one →
  1. August 28, 2013

    Gentle author, please bring my love to John Claridge. Tell him not to fear the dog; it was greeting too, I’m sure. Though what is it with German sheperds? (I have a ‘sheperd’ too, much smaller, an adopted one from Greece, called Kaly. Much more like the Meninas’ dog: happy when the crowd is gathered and then the only one in the picture who’s not looking.)

  2. SBW permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Beautiful.

  3. Peter Holford permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Some beautifully observed photos – a real taste of what I remember. Thank you

  4. Gerry Wiseman permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Love those pictures, So gritty.

  5. Dan Hennessy permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Wonderful photos ! Thanks .

  6. Cherub permalink
    August 28, 2013

    My husband used to play on the Memorial Ground as a boy and thinks he may have been chased by this groundsman for being cheeky :-)

    You can see by the faces here how hard people worked to earn a crust. The apple strudel lady is so sweet, how she gave a piece away for nothing because a photo had been taken of her shop. I sometime mourn for the kindness and community spirit we’ve lost in this country over the years :-(

  7. Tommy F permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Outstanding.
    Thanks again G. A., and John C

  8. August 29, 2013

    Brilliant photographs!

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