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John Claridge’s Spent Moments

June 5, 2012
by the gentle author

Self-Portrait with Keith (standing behind with cigarette), E7 (1961).

“We still meet up for a drink and put the world to rights.”

Here is the young photographer John Claridge at seventeen years of age in 1961, resplendent in a blue suede jacket from Carnaby St worn with a polo neck sweater and pair of Levis, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the character played by David Hemmings in ‘Blow-Up’ five years later.

On the evidence of this set of photographs alone – published here for the first time – it is apparent that John loves people, because each picture is the outcome of spending time with someone and records the tender moment of connection that resulted. Every portrait repays attention, since on closer examination each one deepens into a complex range of emotions. In particularly intimate examples – such as Mr Scanlan 1966 and the cheeky lady of 1982 – the human soul before John’s lens appears to shimmer like a candle flame in a haze of emotionalism. The affection that he shows for these people, as one who grew up among them in the East End, colours John’s pictures with genuine sentiment.

Even in those instances – such as the knife grinder in 1963 and the lady on the box in Spitalfields 1966 – in which the picture records a momentary encounter and the subjects retain a distance from the lens, presenting themselves with a self-effacing dignity, there is an additional tinge of emotionalism. In other pictures – such as the dance poster of 1964 and the windows in E1 of 1966 – John set out to focus on the urban landscape and the human subjects created the photographic moment that he cherished by walking into the frame unexpectedly. From another perspective, seeing the picture of the mannequin in the window, we share John’s emotional double-take on discovering that the female nude which drew his eager gaze is, in fact, a shop dummy.

For John, these photographs are not images of loss but moments of delight, savouring times well spent. If it were not for photography, John might only have flickering memories of the East End in his youth, yet these pictures capture the people that drew his eye and those that he loved half a century ago, fixing their images eternally.

Across the Street, E1 (1982)  I did a double-take when I first saw this. In fact, it was a mannequin in the window. Still looked good.”

School Cap, Spitalfields (1963) – “I just found this surreal. It was as if the man behind was berating a nine-year-old who couldn’t care less.”

Two Friends, Spitalfields (1968) – “They were walking along sharing one piece of bread.”

The Box, Spitalfields(1960) I came across this lady sitting on an orange box, there was nothing else around. Then she got up and walked off with her box.”

Labour Exchange, E13 (1963) Never an uncommon sight.”

Ex-Middleweight Boxer, Cable St (1960) – “We were talking about boxing when he just gave me the thumps-up.”

Knife Grinder, E13 (1966)  – “Every few weeks he would appear at the end of the street. Quite a cross-section of people had their knives sharpened!”

Mr Scanlon, E13 (1966) – “My next door neighbour. Always with a wicked sense of humour and an equally wicked smile.”

The Doorway, E2 (1962) – To this day I would still like to know where her thoughts were.”

Crane Driver, E16 (1975)  – “He could balance a crushed car on half a crown and still give you change.”

59 Club, E9 (1973) – “The noise of the pinball machines with the sound of the jukebox playing Jerry Lee.”

A 7/6 Jacket, E13 (1969) – “He had a small shed where he sold anything he could find, which he collected in a small handcart.”

A Portrait, E1 (1982) – “This special lady asked me ‘Why do you want to photo me?’ I replied ‘Because you look cheeky.’ This is the picture.”

Scrap Dealer, E16 (1975) – “This was shot in Canning Town, near the Terry Lawless boxing gym.”

The Step, Spitalfields (1963) – “A kid at play.”

Dance Poster, E2 (1964) – “I was taking a picture of the distressed posters when he glided past.”

The Windows, Spitalfields (1960) – “Behind every window.”

My Mum & Dad, Plaistow (1964) – “Taken in the backyard.”

Fallen Angel, E7 (1960) – “There were a lot of fallen angels in the East End.”

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

28 Responses leave one →
  1. June 5, 2012

    Each series of John’s photos gets better, discovering these pictures is surely the best moment of the day. I love The Doorway photo.

  2. Ros permalink
    June 5, 2012

    A really marvellous post, both the photographs and the introduction. You are right that every picture repays attention, and all are full of affection. Agree that the doorway one is extra special.

  3. June 5, 2012


    Absolutely wonderful and so telling about these people’s life. To me all these people are such strong individuals and are not swayed by fashion or inhabiting the “Herd culture” They really are the salt of the earth. This reminds me of going to mine workers towns in Yorkshire and Nottingham in the 1960’s and meeting “real people” compared to my life in Bournemouth where I was studying photography.
    Truly magnificent work John. Looking forward to more images


  4. June 5, 2012

    I love these pictures especially the fallen angel.

  5. Lee permalink
    June 5, 2012

    Images of a different world, showing extraordinary characters.

    The Scrap Dealer is just superb, as he looks like a genuine East End villain.

    7/6 is priceless !

    Thanks John.


  6. June 5, 2012

    Having just viewed the Jubilee weekend, it is obvious that people here in the UK need and want tradition in their lives and as I have said before on this site a book really needs to be printed of your amazing history of London, which belongs to everyone, and from the reaction of people in the City here this weekend it only goes to prove that alongside popular publications, I think most people need to be inspired by the generation that are John’s pictures, not only a history but a very inspiring one as well of just how tough it was (and still is for many people) – as ever John, I am in awe

  7. Ashley Bovan permalink
    June 5, 2012

    Always a pleasure to see John’s work.
    The Scrap Dealer stood out for me too
    and “There were a lot of fallen angels in the East End.”

  8. Graham Ford permalink
    June 5, 2012

    keep em coming john


  9. Marien de Goffau permalink
    June 5, 2012

    John’s photographs have as color ‘really special’. I spoke once with John’s father (Nov 82). Then he also found it ‘really special’, not looking at the pictures, but to that book. A proud man. Now we need another book, says my feeling.

  10. Cindy S. permalink
    June 6, 2012

    Beautiful, and they always will be.

  11. June 6, 2012

    From empty streets to people of the street, John have managed to give us an insight into the life in the East End, I love it, it touches so many issues and yet have a beauty, that’s beyond what’s been shown before.
    John is and always will be a wonderful photographer with a unique and honest eye for the obvious, it’s just not obvious for most people, and that’s why these pictures have such importance to photography, art and history.
    I look forward seeing what’s next from John, thank you for sharing these amazing images with us John.

  12. Simon Meyrick-Jones permalink
    June 6, 2012

    I really liked these pictures.As someone else commented ,they are full of affection.Some of the people shown are fairly extreme (yes,Iknow that’s not the exact word)It would have been easy to emphasise their outsiderness(another inexact word)like the photos of Diane Arbus-who’s pictures I’m very fond of.But,whereas her work tends to exlude people,John’s is inclusive,just showing people as they were,where they lived.Wonderful stuff

  13. Adrian Taylor permalink
    June 6, 2012

    Unforgettable images, unforgettable faces.

  14. June 6, 2012

    Great to see a contemporaneous self-portrait in there too. Blow-Up is a definite reference point!

    I love the one with the older lady who you said looked ‘cheeky’. Very much your style!

  15. marie james permalink
    June 7, 2012

    I love every one of these images, but especially the fallen angel and scrap dealer.
    The photo of John’s mum and dad brings back fond memories – truly amazing people.

  16. Cherub permalink
    June 8, 2012

    I love the photo of John’s mum and dad – she looks like she is miles away, daydreaming into the distance.

  17. June 8, 2012

    I think the scrap dealer might have been my cousin Albert! Lovely set of photographs John. As always, you managed to capture the moment beautifully!

  18. June 11, 2012

    Priceless spent moments of a bygone but no longer forgotten era: characters frozen memorably in time by the Claridge lens

  19. June 11, 2012

    John, being out in Spain at the moment I am not on the Internet a lot so just catching up.
    Cracking set of pictures. Your dark and gritty B&W style was set early. Loved all the portraits..
    Checking out the next series now.


  20. john edwards permalink
    July 3, 2012

    The Tremeloes – Johnny Kidd & The Pirates [ Starring Mick Green ] ‘Shaking All Over’ – wake up Aching All Over & ready for the same again at the Orchid Or Tottenham Royal. Love the pristine ‘Chelsea’ boots , collar up, Keith’s timely ‘ Rocco & his Brothers ‘ waft of smoke. Mum’s looks Bernini sharp of mind sculptured. The old boy’s cap is a proper beauty. Looks like a rowing emblem or maybe a catholic school…. Mum shows a Bernini sharp sculptured profile of acute mind – great one!
    Scrap dealer has a very tasty [bottle?] brand/scar. Classier than Frank [The Pig] Norman’s razored cheek. Boxer in Cable St. Yes & Leman street – ‘The Brown Bear ‘eh!
    The unforced portraits are up there & beyond Brassai ….. and the innate skill of getting the shots so young ‘ The Moment ‘ – can’t teach [ or touch] that. Labour of Love. Fallen Angels & how we fell in with them, on the banks of Regent Canal at 2am – fell out with them next a few weeks later.

  21. john edwards permalink
    July 3, 2012

    See I’ve repeated myself in the above. Nevermind. Shot of Mum / Dad obviously reverberated.
    So good I wrote about it twice.

  22. Sarah Cain permalink
    July 15, 2012

    The scrap dealer in Canning Town is my uncle’s brother his name is Alfie Ferrier

  23. Mike Ferrier permalink
    August 24, 2012

    The photo of the scrap dealer is my old dad he is still about

  24. peter draper permalink
    October 26, 2012

    I remember Edie Brown. Stan Henson Jim Arnould Mark Shap ..good old days at Mc Canns …still snapping with Anthony Osmond-Evans .just finished working on the spirit of london book for the olympics i remember peter

  25. paula claridge permalink
    February 19, 2013

    “oh yes i remember it” well and thank you both for the letter to keiths widow
    very much appreciated paula

  26. Colin Knight permalink
    February 23, 2013

    As a fellow West Ham boy, I am so impressed with your work. Did you go to SWHT?
    I live near Castelnaudary, do you live in Toulouse.? I now know a great application for ‘what a talent’

  27. graham cornthwaite permalink
    July 12, 2015

    Just passing through the ether, stopped for a second butchers.
    Absolute joy.
    King ‘o the Kodak castle.
    Opened my eyes another two stops.
    Love ya.

  28. mark hamilton permalink
    March 14, 2017

    As a pro photographer in 60s London (studio in Cambridge Circus) a native Londoner and 50s Soho dweller, I must say how much I admire your collection. Great, gritty images that tell the real story. What a time that was too!


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