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Signs, Posters, Typography & Graphics

June 11, 2012
by the gentle author

E2, 1962

“It could almost be a metaphor of the East End, parts of it were hanging in tatters but it was a beautiful tapestry of things that had been,” said photographer John Claridge, talking fondly of this picture of a posters peeling from a door from 1962. One of a set – first published here today – of photos of signs, posters, typography and graphics that John took in the East End during the sixties when he was in his teens and twenties.

At fifteen years old, John went to work in advertising at McCann Erickson where he encountered the inspiring figure of designer Robert Brownjohn, who had once been a pupil of Moholy-Nagy and famously created the opening credits for ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘From Russia With Love.’ “It opened up my eyes to how people communicate and the beauty of typography.” John confided, “You’re surrounded by it and you’re brought up with it, but people like Robert Brownjohn take it to another level.”

Today, John describes these photographs as coming from ‘the time when my eyes were opened,’ yet he admits he was ‘always interested in what’s not intentional,’ and these pictures all delight in the incidental visual humour and poetry of the human condition – whether a former chapel selling light bulbs that offered ‘batteries recharged,’ or a damaged poster for the mass X-Ray of 1966 that resembled a pair of lungs. “I’m still excited by them,” he confessed to me, “My work in advertising was about solving other people’s problems, but these pictures are the outcome of personal feelings.”

People used to ask me why are you photographing that?” recalled John in amusement. Eastenders have always had the knack of communication, and it was John’s gift to see the beauty in the urban landscape through the marks made by those personalities that created it.

E1, 1964.

E1, 1961.

E 14, 1966. “The poster looks like a pair of lungs.”

E9, 1964.

E1, 1969. “Bertrand Russell looking at the end of the world – the window is like a mushroom cloud.”

E13, 1959. “I used to go with my mum to Queens Rd Market on Saturday morning to get a few bits and pieces.”

E1, 1968. “My mum and dad read the Stratford Express.”

E1, 1967. “There were quite a few of these around.”

E15, 1962. “The Two Puddings was a brilliant pub.”

E14, 1970. “It reminded me of  ‘Soylent Green’, the science fiction movie with Edward G. Robinson.”

E7, 1966.

E1, 1964. “The corrugated iron looks like it’s melting, or like a painting of corrugated iron.”

E1, 1967.

E2, 1963.

E2, 1965. “This lettering is not professional, but very human.”

E13, 1960. “Like stepping onto a stage.”

E7, 1968.

Cable St E1, 1962.

E1, 1964. “Boys used to say ‘No rubbish here,’ when they were selling in the street.”

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

27 Responses leave one →
  1. Marina B permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Ah, just magnificent! Thank you! I love Queen’s Road, and E1, 1967.

  2. June 11, 2012

    More wonderful pictures and a timely reminder jsut how beaten up and bruised the East End was after the blitz and a decade of austerity and neglect. The ruins of the St Georges in the east library in Cable Street E.1 were replaced by a prefab building where my mum used to take me to borrow Tin-Tin books!

  3. Ros permalink
    June 11, 2012

    More haunting pictures. I do like this man’s work and his eye for the things other people might miss.

  4. June 11, 2012

    Lovely stuff! I remember an official sign you could see from the above ground platform of Stratford tube station that said ‘NO SPITTING’. I always thought about taking a picture of it but never did! Thank you John for capturing these amazing images.

  5. June 11, 2012

    Marvellous, evocative photographs. Hope there are more to come.

  6. cindy hacker permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Every shot looks so romantic from this distance…

  7. June 11, 2012

    Just as it says, no rubbish along here, wonderful story from John once again.]

    Thank you for sharing it with us JC.


  8. Adrian Taylor permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Some of these deserve enlargement as fine art.
    Thank you, John!

  9. June 11, 2012

    Another great set,. xxxx


  10. Lee permalink
    June 11, 2012

    A very profound set of shots John !

    The references to a mushroom cloud and Soylent Green ( 1973 ) immediately combined, and I was struck by the thought that the East End would be returned to an even worse condition in the event of a nuclear war.


  11. Marien de Goffau permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Great photographs. Keep looking at them all the time. Love those prints.

  12. Matt Johnson permalink*
    June 11, 2012

    Ah, the Two Puddings! My parents old pub on Stratford Broadway. I remember the Devil’s Kitchen (the nightclub above the pub) very well as I grew up there in the sixties. Funnily enough I am just about to publish ‘Tales from the Two Puddings’, a book of memoirs about life in the pub in the sixties written by my dad and who, by the time he left the Puddings in 2000, was London’s longest serving licensee.

  13. Paul from Tottenham permalink
    June 11, 2012

    I could look at Johns work all day – sublime, evocative, brilliant.

  14. Cindy S. permalink
    June 12, 2012

    Right up my street John! Lovely.

  15. Alice permalink
    June 12, 2012

    Thank you again John for letting us see even more of these beautiful photographs. Sickeningly talented with ANY subject matter as we have been seeing over the last few weeks. Again, I can only say that these really should be shown in London during the Olympics, excellent documentary photography that I hope somebody can pick up on for many more to see.

  16. June 12, 2012

    As a typography nut, it’s a pleasure to see this time capsule of signage.

  17. June 13, 2012

    great work! – good to see these grouped together, the words within the images add a special dimension

  18. June 14, 2012

    A wonderful collection and one almost feels embedded in that space for a moment!

  19. John in Paris. permalink
    June 14, 2012

    Another great set of “everyday subects” made unique by the talent of JC.

  20. Terry Holben permalink
    June 14, 2012

    John, you have captured, recorded so much with magnificience of the London I grew up in. More than just beautiful, poignant, visual images. I can feel, touch, even smell them. The docks, Sally army, Smithfield etc. Thankyou. Can I expect to see Covent Garden?
    I agree that Bj enriched the lives of all of us fortunate enough to have worked with him.
    But feel your eyes were already ‘open’.

  21. June 15, 2012

    Composition as brilliant as we have come to expect over the years from JC
    . . . photographed typography images in tune with the times and a welcome relief
    from the banality of the internet and Photoshop!!!

  22. john edwards permalink
    July 3, 2012

    Blank bashed torn ripped battered rotted rusted nailed screwed abandoned jagged bent holed beaten bloody but never destroyed in our eager eagle eye for tactile surface that spoke of the inner ferment
    so loudly & will never leave the senses. Thank you JC.
    * The Printers in the Roman Road with the original facade is the last man standing of all that. The original owner is still behind that counter too. Old inky fingers has gone digital but he can still make the newspaper ‘forage cap ‘ that used to be seen crammed into Ted’s Cafe bottom of Back Hill Clerkenwell.
    Alfie waving beans on toast, Don banging the tea urn Mary running like Minnie Mouse out of the steam blasting dripping kitchen. Baked Heart 1/6d on Thursday – Hearts filled or broken by Monday. Great.

  23. Lesley Diss permalink
    July 26, 2012

    Fabulous! Some of those look very familiar… family lived on Isle of Dogs.

  24. July 26, 2012

    Stunning photos of a London I never saw first hand. Would love to find more of Columbia Road and surrounding streets.

  25. John Finn permalink
    September 24, 2012

    The Batteries Charged picture is in Lauriston Rd. Lovely photo. I remember the chap who owned the shop. It’s now a pottery.

  26. debra williams permalink
    September 13, 2013

    love the queens rd ones i still live here all my family have for generations most surprised to see grandad on the horse and cart he was such a character its no wonder he has been captured on film and popped up 40 yrs after he died

  27. Emily Gasparro permalink
    October 4, 2017

    John Edwards – if you read this, Could you please tell me about Teds Cafe that you mention above? I’m trying to find out about it as I believe it was a relative of mine.

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