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John Claridge’s Lighter Side

January 28, 2013
by the gentle author

“Coming from the East End, I used to go to sleep at night listening to the sound of the ships and my dad was a sailor who told me tales of his travels – so I wanted to see the world.” Photographer John Claridge confided to me, revealing the source of his wanderlust. Yet as a child in the nineteen fifties, growing up in the shadow of the London docks, I doubt if John ever imagined that he would one day be photographing a vessel like the one above, as he did for the Indian Tourist Board in 1980.

John’s family had worked as dockers for generations, but in John’s youth the docks were already in decline, so when he left school at fifteen and went to West Ham Labour Exchange, he told them he wanted to be a photographer. Blessed with precocious talent and easy charm, John was offered immediate employment by the photographic department of the McCann-Erickson advertising agency. It was the first step in an exceptional career which took him out of Plaistow and sent him on assignments all over the world, working at the peak of his profession for decades.

This selection of pictures from John’s global odyssey shows the flowering of his creativity in the commercial arena, which came after his East End documentary photography I have published over the past year.

“I think I lived through the golden age of advertising in which you could be creative with your art, I don’t think you can do that any more.” John admitted to me, “There was no photoshop, you had to go out and take the photograph – and you discovered things and you ran with it. All of these pictures were done in the frame. If you bolt it together from library images, you just get the bleeding obvious.”

Indian Tourist Board 1980

“I made several trips to India and came back with all kinds of pictures, and then I worked with a designer and a copywriter and we were free to be creative.”

Lloyds Bank 1975

“This was on a beach in Cornwall. It was probably the weather we didn’t want. We had a horse for two days and we just let it run. You got the best horse you could, so we got one that had been ‘Black Beauty.’ This picture was used for a forty-eight sheet poster.”

Jack Daniels 1986

“The guy was just whittling while he waited for the whisky to mature – it was his job, it was what he did. Tennessee was a dry state at the time.”

Land Rover 1989

“We stayed with Richard Leakey in Kenya and took a safari by Land Rover. I got pretty close, it’s surprising how close you can get to a Wildebeest in a Land Rover, but you don’t want to get out or it spooks them. The texture of a Wildebeest is fantastic, the hide has a luminosity. We did giraffes, zebras, everything…”

Adplates Calendar 1985

“This was for a calendar created for a reproduction house. The photograph was taken in daylight but the print is solarised in the processing.”

French Tourist Board 1974

“This is very early in the morning near the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries where the Impressionists painted. It was an experiment to see if we could get the feel of those paintings in a photograph.”

Kodak 1978

“This was for a calendar Kodak did to demonstrate the qualities of different films they manufactured. So I said, ‘Let’s go to Venice.’ The light is very beautiful out of season and I used a mirror lens which gives the feel of a vignette.”

Goretex 1989

“This is in Alaska on Mount McKinley. We flew into base camp and climbed up to take the photo. The man in the picture is the guide who took us up there.”

Vichy Cosmetics 1972

“She was driving an old Rolls Royce that we hired for the day in Paris. The dress is her own, because it’s about her individuality – not about creating something fashionable, but about her complexion and how she sees herself.”

Porsche 1989

“We shot this in the South of France, the light is good there, and I treated the Porsche as sculpture – you don’t need to see the car.”

Great Ormond St Hospital

“They asked me to do a charity thing. I thought, ‘They mend broken children, so I’ll get a broken doll and let people figure it out.’ It’s not a happy picture, it reminds me of the figures at Pompeii.”

Carras (Hellas) Shipping 1974

“This was for the cover of the Annual Report of a Greek shipping line. I found this barrow of tomatoes just around the corner from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I couldn’t believe it was so beautiful – the red glowed. If you’re going to show Byzantium, you have to show it through something other than the obvious.”

Pirelli Calendar 1993

“We did this in the Seychelles and it was a lot of fun.”

Photographs copyright © John Claridge

Take a look at these other pictures by John Claridge

John Claridge’s East End

John Claridge’s Darker Side

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

At the Salvation Army in Eighties

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round One)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Two)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Three)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Four)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Five)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Six)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Seven)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Eight)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Nine)

John Claridge’s Boxers (Round Ten)

26 Responses leave one →
  1. January 28, 2013

    Wow! What a revelation. I always enjoy those posts where you showcase John Claridge’s photos, but these show yet more facets of his wonderful work.

  2. January 28, 2013

    Thank you for these. They are beautiful and also stunning.

  3. Annie permalink
    January 28, 2013

    These are a wonderful start to a cold dark morning. I recognised a lot of them as well! Often wondered about the Jack Daniels photos. Love the Paris shot.

  4. Vicky permalink
    January 28, 2013


  5. Patricia Celeveland-Peck permalink
    January 28, 2013

    Thank you for a lovely start to the day. These images are works of art. .The range and quality is incredible. Most of all though, looking at them delivers a dose of pure pleasure – something welcome on a winter’s morning.

  6. Lee permalink
    January 28, 2013

    Love the beautiful Indian Tourist Board shot, Porsche sculpture, and the contrast of the tom’s to the background.

    Beautiful artisitic images !


  7. January 28, 2013

    Lovely to see the work that paid the bills. Love the Tulliers one, took some there last year when on a wee photo trip. Have not got round to finishing them off yet. Great as always John.

  8. linda sutton permalink
    January 28, 2013

    So good to see colour being loved. L

  9. January 28, 2013

    French Tourist Board is my favourite with the elephant a close second. Keep on smudging!

  10. simon meyrick-jones permalink
    January 28, 2013

    The Kodak 1978/Venice is the one I really like,followed by the Tuileries .
    Looking forward to playing My Favourite Photo again next week!

  11. Sarah Correia permalink
    January 28, 2013

    Wonderful photos. The first one with the flowers in the boat is one of the loveliest I have ever seen

  12. David Drakes permalink
    January 28, 2013

    JC’s “Lighter Side” is what I grew up with . . . quite simply the best commercial photographer around . . . be it in his advertising work, his editorial essays and in those travelogues he undertook just to satisfy his insatiable curiosity . . . the world as seen through JC’s lens . . .
    quite revealingly marvellous!

  13. January 28, 2013

    I remember the Lloyds black horse very well and fondly. The image has a wonderfully wild and free look, whether you wanted that weather or not!

    The Goretex shot on Mt McKinley is stunning. I would love to know how those orange hues were made to shine so brightly.

  14. Adrian Taylor permalink
    January 28, 2013

    I always knew there was a lighter side somewhere down there.
    The first shot in this series is one of my all-time favorites.


  15. Olga Secerov permalink
    January 28, 2013

    These are just stunning, Every one of these has it’s own brilliance.

  16. January 30, 2013

    Wow, as a photographer I can really appreciate the beauty of these wonderful images. What amazing artistry!


  17. john edwards permalink
    February 1, 2013

    The first shot hits essence, a Brancusi ship of jewels, treasure of the raj,
    the intense red of Klimt or Moreau , saffron scarlet pigment bomb burst
    of excited festival framed in umber shadow against mother of pearl Joseph
    Conrad morning light.
    All the work here needs no copy or logo’s, as every shot has acute presence,
    but we had to wait for CDP to ‘let the client add an egg’ for that moment to
    come to light much later and then for a small moment in time ….
    I too dream’t of sailing ships and high adventure which jumped and caught me
    through those wonder illustrated volumes of Westerman, Henty, Sinbad,
    Arabian Nights and the poems that conjure glowing horizons, Drake and
    Raleigh, Kubla Khan, the great spaces in Conrad, and we first took to
    water under our own flag [ that is no parent was there to clap us in irons ] in
    salvaged ‘drop’ tanks from the fighter planes playing war games up in the lark
    song sky. sort of square coracles … Later tried to join the Merch. Leman St.
    This collection is on song and on fire with the visceral energy of insight – gets me going –
    ‘ …. Was lookout watch on a 28 gun on high in the crosstrees, saw a galleon
    wallowing like a drunken sailor across the deep blue seas, Called down to my
    shipmates Give chase lads lets be bold, And before Orion unveils the moon
    We’ll have galleon and gold …[¢ je. prs.] …….Tally Ho! x

  18. John in Paris. permalink
    February 6, 2013

    Is it the colour?Is it the black & white?Is it the subject.The angle.The light.No….it’s JC.Give him a camera and a roll of film and let him get on with it.We know that we are going to get an image.A JC image.
    End of story.

  19. Terry Holben permalink
    February 12, 2013

    You brightened my day! How fortunate we were to have lived and worked through such
    a golden age. Thanks.

  20. Marien de Goffau permalink
    February 23, 2013

    John Claridge’s Lighter Side? Oh no, not at all!
    Great ways to see: The John Claridge through the years.

  21. April 13, 2013

    Beautiful stuff. And who can forget Paris, the work for Vichy and Lilliane Francois’s (did I spell that correctly?) gallery with the Man Ray lithos?

  22. April 13, 2013

    My God!! I didn’t realise you did that fantastic Lloyds horse shot!! That is such an amazingly striking image, John. I am old enough to remember it well!

  23. April 13, 2013

    beautiful work, John – amazing

  24. April 13, 2013

    Above are some of the images that inspired me 25 yrs ago to take the sometimes very painful path to become a photographer.Time has moved on but these images still make me want to grab my camera and go explore.

  25. April 13, 2013

    Believe it or not, and cheesey as it may sound, I immediately wrote a poem for my wife inspired by one of the shots.

    I pray to save you from the everyday

    I pray to save you from the everyday
    Liberate you from the customary
    Free you from the normal
    Tiresome, vanilla, flock and beige

    I pray you sustain some form of reverie
    Your mind an inattentive absentee
    Spared anything that intervenes
    To bring you down to earth

    Away with the fairies, is my wish for you
    Safe from life’s stale platitudes
    Pedestrian, repressed attitudes
    Of settled normal life

    Not for us the terrestrial,
    Quotidian, unexceptional
    For we have dared to soar
    Among the dreams
    Of something more

    Yet from my own perspective I must say
    Not a second would I dream away
    For there is no dream that can compare
    To my everyday… with you

    ©J. R. Sinclair 2013

  26. April 15, 2013

    I have great admiration for your work.

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