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People On The Street & A Cat

July 16, 2012
by the gentle author

Brick Lane 1966

“Sometimes there is no reason, but you have to do it and that’s what makes magical things happen.” photographer John Claridge said, introducing this set of pictures published here for the first time,“There is no why or wherefore of doing it, because it’s not from the head – it’s from the heart.”

I took John’s declaration as a description of his state of rapture as he wandered the pavements of the East End to take these photographs of people on the street, going about their daily lives.“I used to get up early and walk around,” he confided to me and I understood the sense of loneliness that haunts these evocative pictures, in which the subjects appear distant like spectres, self-absorbed and lost in thought.

The important word is ‘request'” said John, speaking of the photo of the man at the request bus stop, “He’s in some kind of world that we are not party to.” In John’s youthful vision – enthralled by the writing of Franz Kafka – the East End street became an epic stage where an existential drama was enacted, peopled by characters journeying through a strange landscape of forbidding beauty.

John knew he was photographing a poor society within a poor environment, but he was a part of it and held great affection for it. “Just another day of people walking around,” he concluded to me with uneasy levity – emphasising that while these images are emblematic of a world which time may have rendered exotic, it is also world that was once commonplace to him.

Whitechapel, 1960

Whitechapel, 1981.

E13, 1962 -“This was taken from my window at home.”

Spitalfields, 1962 – “They look like they are up to no good.”

Whitechapel, 1968 -“Where did the boy get that peaked cap?”

Spitalfields, 1961. -“An old man stops to light up.”

Spitalfields, 1961 – “A moment, a story in itself.”

Whitechapel, 1982

Spitalfields, 1982 – “I walked past her and just grabbed the picture as I went by.”

Spitalfields, 1962

Spitalfields, 1968 – “The dog is looking at the rubbish in exactly the same way as the man is looking at the rubbish.”

At the ’59 Club, 1973

Weavers’ Fields, 1959  An old lady walks across a bombsite in Bethnal Green.

Whitechapel, 1964

E16, 1964 –“The important word is ‘request.’ He’s in some kind of world that we are not party to.”

Whitechapel, 1982

E16, 1982 -“He’s going home to his dinner.”

Princelet St, 1962 – “Just a man and a pigeon.”

Spitalfields, 1968 -“I like the shadows, where they’re falling.”

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

Working People & a Dog

Invasion of the Monoliths

Time Out with John Claridge

Views from a Dinghy by John Claridge

19 Responses leave one →
  1. July 16, 2012

    Very absobing photographs, you feel as though you should be depressed by the wet streets, the grubby kids, the craggy oldies and the destitute landscape – but the viewer just feels priviledged to witness these amazing images. I love the echo of pram wheels and their continued use many years after their passenger no longer needed them – they are a perfect symbol of a ‘needs must’ society, life where austerity was the norm. Nearly missed the cat, but caught the milk bottle precariously perched on the edge of the doorstep.

  2. Cindy S. permalink
    July 16, 2012

    “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment”

    Whilst freely documenting his beloved back yard, JC’s creative and intuitive eye has recognised a composition or an expression in the creative click of a camera shutter.
    None more so than the gentleman with the moustache – Whitechapel 1960


  3. Lee permalink
    July 16, 2012

    Very atmospheric shots ! … as always.

    Love the child’s face in shot at “ Spitalfields 1962 “

    The ships funnel showing the Maltese Cross ( E18 1982 ) brings back old memories of the Houlder Steam Navigation Line.


  4. cindy hacker permalink
    July 16, 2012

    A fabulous collection of images from a bygone age

  5. July 16, 2012

    I wonder if John had a favoured day of the week he would get up early and take his photographs. His images often bring to mind Sundays when everything was closed or perhaps early mornings are like that anyway. The lack of cars and excessive road signage really made streets look so different, less cluttered and claustrophobic, grittily romantic.

  6. Ros permalink
    July 16, 2012

    John Claridge’s photos continue to move and delight me. They capture time in an almost unearthly way. I particularly like the top photo of the woman in Brick Lane who rises above the desolation of her surroundings, the man with the moustache and a face that registers much but doesn’t talk about it, and the man who may or may not be waiting for a bus. The children’s faces are marvellous too. Keep ’em coming!

  7. Alice permalink
    July 17, 2012

    Beautiful, my favourite set so far. I absolutely love the portrait of the children, such cheeky faces and sparkling eyes, I wonder what they were plotting for the day’s events? Playing in the bomb damaged buildings perhaps or maybe just watching the girls outside ’59 Club? It’s lovely to look at pictures of the East End without having to see a single pair of skinny jeans, I don’t expect anyone in these photographs would ever have thought that their East End would become THE trendy place to live!

    More please.

  8. July 17, 2012

    The girls looks great, what a wonderful story, so much going on, so many expressions, another interesting story from John Claridge.
    This is to me the real story of the East End, thanks John for sharing theese amazing images with us.


  9. July 17, 2012

    Well, I hope the Cat snaffled the cream . . . not many other rich pickings in JC’s
    nostalgic Spitalfields . . . apart, that is, from the majesty of the People On The Street!

  10. July 17, 2012

    Once again having read everyone else’s comments there really seems nothing left to say,except they are such powerful images and leave one with such an explicit look at the time – and a very important part of our lives growing up. I love them all John they are as ever wonderful

  11. Olga Secerov permalink
    July 17, 2012

    At the 59 Club is so brilliant. I wish I was there. These images are so absorbing and I feel priviledged to be able to experience them.

  12. July 18, 2012

    Perhaps the best set yet. I’m in awe. Hats off Mr. Claridge.

  13. July 21, 2012

    great work!
    me too, big fan of ‘At the 59 Club’ and the rag and bone man, ‘Whitechapel’…the face shots as well

  14. Terry Holben permalink
    July 24, 2012

    Another beautiful set of moving, powerful images that bring my past racing back.
    My grandson asked what London was like when I was “young”. Your photographic record
    speaks volumes.
    Thank you John.

  15. John in Paris. permalink
    July 24, 2012

    Still life!JC walked around and took pictures…subjects we used to see and walk past everyday.But no one with the same JC eye

  16. Marien de Goffau permalink
    July 24, 2012

    So poor and so rich is life. Great black and white photographs from the 60s.

  17. William Goldman permalink
    August 21, 2012

    I agree with Roger Owen, that “…you feel as though you should be depressed by the wet streets, the grubby kids, the craggy oldies and the destitute landscape – but the viewer just feels priviledged to witness these amazing images. “

  18. isa permalink
    September 3, 2012

    I adore these black and white photos they are inspiring me to take up my art again and create a picture of bygone days I have just moved to Eastbourne and have retired so have a lot of time to create thank you for these delightful photos

  19. Miriam Delorie permalink
    November 25, 2012

    Thank you! Princelet Str looks as though it should have also looked like that in the 1920’s. I like to think that I am looking at your photos and peering into my families’ past as it was then and continued to be…into the 60’s. If you have a photo of Fieldgate Street or Old Artillery Lane…I would treasure it. Your pictures also show that London is timeless and the past lives on, into the future. regards, Miriam

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