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John Claridge’s Other World

September 23, 2016
by the gentle author

John Claridge’s EAST END photography exhibition opens at The Society Club, 12 Ingestre Place, Soho, W1, next Tuesday 27th September 7pm. John will sign copies of his book, and he & I will be discussing his East End photography during the evening. All readers are invited.


“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 set of pictures. 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.




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.


THE WINDOW, E16 1982.

DARK CORNER, E16 1987.

BLIND SPOT, E16 1987.


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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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

Misericords At St Katharine’s Chapel

September 22, 2016
by the gentle author

Tutivillus the demon eavesdropping upon two women

I spent yesterday morning on my knees in St Katharine’s Chapel in Limehouse, photographing these rare survivors of fourteenth century sculpture, believed to have been created around 1360 for the medieval St Katharine’s Chapel next to the Tower of London, which was displaced and then demolished for the building of the docks in 1825.

These marvellous carvings evoke a different world and another sensibility, combining the sacred and profane in grotesque and fantastical images that speak across time as emotive and intimate expressions of the human imagination. I am particularly fascinated by the sense of mutability between the human and animal kingdom in these sculptures, manifesting a vision of a mythic universe of infinite strange possibility which was once familiar to our forebears.

Intriguingly, these misericords appear to have been created by the same makers who carved those at Lincoln and Chester cathedrals, and a friary in Coventry.

After a sojourn of over a hundred years in Regent’s Park, the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, originally founded by Queen Matilda in 1147, moved back to the East End to Limehouse in 1948 where it flourishes today, offering an enclave of peace and reflection, sequestered from the traffic roaring along the Highway on one side and Commercial Rd on the other.

Centaur with club and shield

Tutivillus holds the parchment on the Day of Judgement


Bust of a bearded man in a striped cap with a cape and trailing drapery

Winged beast with a long tail and human head


Edward III

Queen Philippa

Bishop’s head

Green man

Bearded man wearing a cap

A former Master of St Katharine’s was Chancellor of the Exchequer

Angel playing the bagpipes

Pelican in her piety with three chicks, supported by a pair of swans

Lion leaping upon the amphisbaena, supported by reptilian monsters

Coiled serpentine monster

Woman riding a beast with a man’s head

Elephant and castle surmounted by a crowned head

Beast with a hooded human head


Choir stalls with misericords

St Katharine’s Chapel was built in 1951 on the site of St James, Ratcliffe, destroyed in the blitz

Late fifteenth or early sixteen century carving of angel musicians playing a psaltery, a harp and tabor

The Royal Foundation of St Katharine, 2 Butcher Row, Limehouse, E14 8DS

With thanks to the Master of the Royal Foundation of St Katharine for permission to photograph the misericords

If you are interested to visit St Katharine’s Chapel please write to

Ghost Signs Of Bermondsey & Southwark

September 21, 2016
by the gentle author

Sam Roberts of London Ghost Signs kindly took me on a tour of Bankside recently to visit some of the ghost signs there which whisper tales of Bermondsey & Southwark’s past to anyone who cares to listen. Click here to get the App, learn more and undertake the walk for yourself. Also, some of these signs are illuminated this week as part of London Design Festival, details here.

Bermondsey Mesh & Wire Works, William Cockle & Co, moved to Tanner St off Bermondsey St in 1903, trading at this location until 1919.

Thomson Bros Ltd, Paper, Estab’d 1857, moved to Bermondsey St in 1952. An earlier sign with a date of establishment of 1840 is visible beneath.

Baylis & Co Ltd, Leather Factors, Morocco St

M. Emanuel Ltd, Leather & Leather Pieces, Office, Ground Floor, 3 Leather Market, Weston St. The company moved here in 1942 and left in the early eighties.

The Monster Ready Made & Bespoke Clothing Establishment, Albion House Clothing Comp’y, Branch Establishments, Paris, Antwerp and Ghent, Borough High St, founded at the end of the nineteenth century, the business traded here until 1910.

Take Courage, Redcross Way, signed painted in 1955 upon Brewer’s House of Barclay, Perkins & Co previously known as the Anchor Brewery built in 1807, when it was taken over by Courage.

Barlow Roberts, Shop Fitter, Builders and Contractors, Saw Planing, Moulding Mills, 15 Ryecross St, Estimates free for all kinds of building work and structural alterations, Best Work & Despatch, Southwark St, uncovered in 2014. The company was located here from 1908 and moved to Borough High St in 1920.

Ghost numbers at 53 Southwark St

Barclay & Fry Ltd, Printers, Stationers and Tin Box Makers, Great Guildford St, opened here in 1889 and continued trading until the nineteen-eighties. Sign was damaged in 1941 and repaired in 2009.

Rose Brand Fine Teas, James Ashby & Sons Ltd, Embassy Tea and Coffee and Ventilators and R.E.Jones, Union St. Home to Hayward Brothers, Ironfounders and makers of Ventilators, for eighty years before James Ashby moved here in the seventies

Commit No Nuisance, Doyce St. Situated at the rear of Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel and across the road from the former Fox & Hounds public house, the wording of these signs is a common euphemism for ‘No Pissing’ – also to be found on Christ Church, Spitalfields.

You may also like to take a look at

Ghost Signs of Stoke Newington

In Old Bermondsey

Thierry Girard’s East End, 1976

September 20, 2016
by the gentle author

Today it is my pleasure to show these previously unseen photographs by Thierry Girard, taken in the East End in 1976 and now the subject of a new book published by Cafe Royal Books

“More than simply pictures from my early years as a photographer, these are the starting point of my photographic work. At the beginning of 1976, when I was twenty-four, I had just graduated from Paris Institute of Political Studies and I had no specific idea about my future. I was very interested in photography, I bought my first photography books and I went to exhibitions, but I had very little experience.

At that time, my interest was in British photography and photographs taken in Britain by foreigners. I was an Anglophile. I was fond of Bill Brandt’s work, of course, and I was familiar with the photographs of Tony Ray-Jones, Homer Sykes and David Hurn  - but the real catalyst was to be Robert Frank’s portfolio of London & Wales published in the 1975 edition of the Creative Camera International Yearbook. Knowing London rather well —I had stayed there several times in the previous years— I immediately related to the atmosphere of Frank’s pictures.

So I decided to go back to London for a challenge, a rite of initiation: to face the outside world and do photography. I stayed in the East End where I had lived as a student, although I did not intend to do a reportage about the East End or Eastenders. I just wanted to walk for hours and days in, snatching bits of life, passing through dilapidated districts, pushing doors of pubs, rambling through markets and playing with kids. I spent time with a wonderful couple, clever and cheerful people, but living in poverty in a damp basement flat while sewing ties for chic French companies. At lunchtime or in the evenings I went to strip pubs. The people attending the shows, both men and women, were locals.

I hope these photographs made in London in 1976 are worth revisiting. Very few of these pictures have ever been published or exhibited, but what I did there at the time has been decisive for my future as a photographer.” - Thierry Girard

At the Elephant, Dalston

In Brick Lane

At the Elephant, Dalston

In Bethnal Green

Alan B, homeworker in Graham Rd, Hackney

In Mare St

In Wapping

In Ridley Rd Market

In Dalston

Betty & Penny B, Graham Rd, Hackney

In Hackney

At Limehouse Social Club

In Wapping

At Limehouse Social Club

In Bethnal Green

In Tower Hamlets

In Hackney

In Hackney

Hackney Empire

Photographs copyright © Thierry Girard

Click here to buy a copy of Thierry Girard’s EAST END ’76, POPLAR & HACKNEY from Cafe Royal Books for £6

You may also like to take a look at

Market Luskacova’s Brick Lane

Homer Sykes Spitalfields

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Val Perrin’s Spitalfields

Sarah Ainslie’s Brick Lane

David Hoffman’s East End

Colin O’Brien’s Brick Lane

Malcolm Tremaine’s Spitalfields

Daniele Lamarche’s East End

Christopher Brown At Townhouse

September 19, 2016
by the gentle author

Albion by Christopher Brown

Printmaker Christopher Brown‘s superlative linocuts feature in an exhibition entitled ALBION, A CELEBRATION OF BRITAIN IN PRINT by St Jude’s opening at Townhouse, 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields, tomorrow Tuesday 20th and running until Sunday 25th September from 11am daily.

Prints copyright © Christopher Brown

Photographs copyright © Alun Callender

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Christopher Brown’s London Alphabet