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At the Salvation Army in the Eighties

October 1, 2012
by the gentle author

This candid set of pictures by photographer John Claridge, published here for the first time, were taken in the Salvation Army hostels in Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Hoxton during the eighties, but they are just a selection of those he has taken over the decades for this most famous of East End institutions. “I’m not a religious person but I think the Salvation Army do a fantastic job.” John admitted to me, “So I said, ‘yes,’ when I was asked to do some charity work for them and the relationship lasted over forty years.”

Observing this compassionate endeavour through changing times, John recognises an equilibrium in the nature of the care. “The Salvation Army is a constant world – though some of the causes may be different, nowadays more drugs than alcohol – the people are the same, there’s still the same need.” he told me, as we contemplated these pictures together.

John was determined to maintain the dignity of those he was photographing, despite their circumstances. “It’s not right to intrude on a person’s life but you have to be able say, ‘This is the world we live in,'” he assured me,“And there is a responsibility to try to do that right. Just because somebody has got into this situation, it doesn’t make them a bad person.”

“There’s some sad things here, but there is also a kind of survival and a little bit of humour.” he added, eager to emphasise the resilience of his subjects and create a tender intimacy with the viewer, “If you’re doing something for a charity, you don’t want to set things up. It’s documentary photography but you need people to feel it too. You need to people to think – you might end up here.”

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

People on the Street & a Cat

In Another World with John Claridge

A Few Pints with John Claridge

A Nation Of Shopkeepers

Some East End Portraits by John Claridge

Sunday Morning Stroll with John Claridge

John Claridge’s Cafe Society

Graphics & Graffiti

Just Another Day With John Claridge

14 Responses leave one →
  1. October 1, 2012

    A stark and moving account. Thank you.

  2. Libby Hall permalink
    October 1, 2012

    It is a specially beautiful photograph – the man sitting on his bed with his tin of tobacco by his hand, and the light on his face.

    I sometimes catch a bus from the bus stop outside the Salvation Army Hostel in Whitechapel. There are often residents from hostel sitting at the bus stop as on a park bench. I have had some lovely conversations with people I have met at that bus stop. No small talk about the weather, but straight into life histories and philosophies of survival – often with self-effacing humour that has us both laughing.

    It is those similar life histories that make the Gentle Author’s Spitalfields Life, and John Claridges photographs, so profoundly important – and beautiful.

  3. October 1, 2012

    Great Pics, classic!!!

  4. October 1, 2012

    What a life these people had! John have captured the mood and the characters in the Salvation army.
    I love the image of the tv room, it makes me feel very sad, but at least they have a place to sit in their own little world.
    Amazing shots once again from a photographer who’s work I have always loved, and somehow there’s always a picture of a dog thrown in? Wonderful.

  5. Lee permalink
    October 1, 2012

    I’ve been a supporter of the Salvation Army for many years, so these photographs have great meaning. They do a fantastic job all over the world , and are deserving of all the support they can get.



  6. October 1, 2012

    No captions necessary . . . the images speak for themselves . . . the Sally Army may not be the most vocal of charities but, as JC’s lens reminds us so poignantly, they remain stalwarts of the local community . . . there for when any of us from our fractured society might need them.

  7. Marien de Goffau permalink
    October 1, 2012

    Indeed, our world. Part of our world. Beautiful portraits and beautiful black and white prints. Impressive photographs.

  8. October 1, 2012

    I’ll more than likely end my days in such a place

  9. October 2, 2012

    I remember so well when John did work for The Salvation Army and the sensation the pictures created. For me the most effective were the tube cards when as a captive audience you became transfixed by the images and on getting off the train everyone would rush home to write a cheque out and send it off – they were that powerful – and still are to this day.

  10. Cherub permalink
    October 2, 2012

    I’m not religious but I donate to the Salvation Army every Christmas for their appeal. My late dad was of a generation who witnessed the poverty between the wars and he used to tell me about all the work they did with homeless people, alcoholics and people who had fallen on very hard times. He also used to tell us we shouldn’t complain because we had a roof over our head and food and his motto was “there is always someone worse off than yourself”.

    The SA also do incredible work trying to find missing people. It is the one charity I donate to that is non negotiable for me and these moving photos just reinforce that.

  11. Freddie Edmondson permalink
    October 4, 2012

    Another poignant set of strong and yet fragile images- Maybe a little closer to all our hearts in these troubled times………


  12. Olga Secerov permalink
    October 7, 2012

    very moving portraits. These photographs bring back memories when I lived very close to the Salvation Army in Hoxton during the 80’s.

  13. October 8, 2012

    How things have changed….. stunning

  14. john edwards permalink
    October 10, 2012

    Very naff grey cement statue of Booth opposite O’Leary Square Whitechapel/ Mile End Road.
    He’s leaning forward as if in a stiff breeze , and, facing east you don’t envy him his position. Arm raised and index finger pointing. Suppose it’s Onward/Upward meant but I think he’s vainly hailing a cab
    to go up west for a Fitzrovia bender to relieve the gloom of certainty surrounding those uncertain platoons marching to a drum of broken dreams.
    St Joseph’s Hospice is a wonderful haven of love and care – Doll’s Hospital, last stop for the walking wounded – and they care for them – they do. Don’t know how they hack it day & night in and out.
    Very moving JC in your unabashed humanist recording of some of those faces and places we are lucky
    to have and to have avoided.

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