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Some Diversions By John Claridge

May 30, 2016
by the gentle author

The first of five features celebrating the publication of John Claridge’s EAST END this week

The Daily Message in E3, 1972

Taken between 1959 and 1982, each one of these East End pictures by John Claridge contains a diversion of some kind – either illustrating an activity that is incidental to the flow of life or presenting an observation that is itself a distraction. “These are small incidents, humdrum diversions like going to the hairdresser or the baths, not shattering moments but part of the life of the community all the same,” he assured me. Yet although these sly visual anecdotes may refer to marginal or quotidian experiences, they can sometimes reveal as much or more about the texture and tenor of their times than any news photo of the day.

John collected his observations of life out of a fascination to explore the strange poetry of existence, revealing his interest in reflections upon images seen through glass, his passion for lettering and design, and especially his delight in people. He takes pleasure in observing how they inhabit a place, and how they show their creativity when they strive to make themselves at home, even in the most unlikely or inopportune of circumstances.

Bridalwear shop, Spitalfields 1966. “Wherever you went at that time, there was always a bridal shop.”

Twenty past one? Spitalfields 1967. “You couldn’t design it better!”

American wrestler and trainer, Walthamstow Town Hall 1982.  “They asked me to take the picture.”

Barbers, Spitalfields 1964. (note spelling of ‘closing’)

Accordion player, Spitalfields, 1970. “He was playing under an arch and the sound drifted around, it was wonderful.”

Corsetiere, Whitechapel 1961. “A man came up to me while I was doing this and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m taking a picture,’ I said. ‘There’s something wrong  with you, lad,’ he replied.”

East Ham baths, E6 1961. “After Saturday morning football, we always went to East Ham baths to have a bath.”

Football in the street, Spitalfields 1959.

Sweet kiosk, Spitalfields 1967. “See my reflection in this picture. She was so proud. Afterwards, she and her friends came out to be photographed.”

Snack bar – cold drinks, Spitalfields 1982.

Boy on a rocking horse, E2 1982. “Look at the conditions he’s living in. The bars look like a prison and he’s got nowhere to go.”

At the 59 bikers’ club, E9 1973. Founded by Father William Shergold, biker priest, in 1959 to bring mods and rockers together.

Lady on the balcony, Spitalfields 1962. “Her diversion for the day was standing there and watching the world go by.”

Windmill seller,  E2 1961.

Washing day, E14 1961. “I just came out of my girlfriend’s house and she said, ‘Look, it’s washday across the road.'”

Man with jobs poster, Spitalfields 1963. “I asked him, ‘Are you alright for a couple of bob?’ and he sat in the sun for me for a moment.”

Ear piercing, Spitalfields 1964. Is this ear piercing done to people over five years of age, or has the jeweller been piercing ears since five years of age?

Hotdog van, Spitalfields 1961.

Cup of tea, Spitalfields 1964. “Settled onto this old sofa in the market, enjoying his cup of tea, he looks like he should be wearing an eighteenth century wig and coat.”

Photographs copyright © John Claridge


7 Responses leave one →
  1. May 30, 2016

    The photos are eloquent records of a past that has gone, some funny and others sad, but all very evocative. Valerie

  2. Chris F permalink
    May 30, 2016

    The picture of the windmill seller reminds me of photographs I’ve seen of First World War soldiers (Some of them former Officers) reduced to selling matches or laces from similar cardboard boxes in order to make some sort of a living.

  3. May 30, 2016

    Fine pictures! And in the first one it is to be seen, the big question: STAY or get OUT of the EU? I know exactly what will happen, for I know you well my dear Britons! 🙂

    In other words: You will do it right! And then you can have your cup of tea as shown in the penultimate picture …

    Love & Peace

  4. Stephen Foster permalink
    May 30, 2016

    Another great set of Pics. I feel as if I should be there.

  5. May 30, 2016

    Absolutely marvellous! “they can sometimes reveal as much or more about the texture and tenor of their times than any news photo of the day.” You are so right.

  6. pauline taylor permalink
    May 30, 2016

    Well John, if you were going to get any sort of thrill out of looking at that underwear there surely would have been something wrong with you!!

    Great photos.

  7. Phyllis permalink
    May 30, 2016

    Who on earth would be willing to have their ears pierced by a five year old? 🙂

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