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John Claridge’s People On The Street

June 3, 2016
by the gentle author

Tonight, Friday 3rd June, John Claridge will be talking about his EAST END photography with Stefan Dickers at 7pm at WATERSTONES PICCADILLY, W1J 9HD. Email to reserve your free ticket.

We shall be giving away posters of John Claridge’s photograph of Sammy Fisher’s Grocery Shop to all comers!

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,“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


11 Responses leave one →
  1. June 3, 2016

    Wonderful photos again, John is a master in creating mystery and atmosphere. Valerie

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  4. pauline taylor permalink
    June 3, 2016

    The ability to take photographs like these is a gift, and one which John has in abundance, I can’t praise them (and him) enough. Congratulations John.

  5. Sue permalink
    June 4, 2016

    My book arrived yesterday. Very nicely produced.
    Thank you.

  6. June 4, 2016

    Photographs like this light up the imagination of a writer. I think of the stories each photograph tells and how these images would translate into illustrations. Another great post.

  7. June 6, 2016

    I have so enjoyed every one of the posts about this gifted photographer. Its impossible to have “favorites” – and pointless, really — but I was so stunned by the photo above”Spitalfields, 1982″ of the old woman photographed “in passing”. Everything about the image pulled at my heart strings — I sense, with her kerchief and weathered face, that she has considered herself
    “invisible” for many decades. Someone who would not be noticed, or regarded, or considered, or consulted — about anything, by anyone. She had such a solitary-yet-intrepid look. This photographer is a born narrator — and he makes us care deeply about his subjects. Amazing.

  8. Malcolm permalink
    June 7, 2016

    More great photographs from John Claridge, some of which are not in the wonderful book, which I urge everyone to buy. There are echoes of Robert Frank, Walker Evans and Eugene Atget in these pictures but each one is imbued with John’s unique art. Here is a world that has virtually disappeared from view but there is still an intangible spirit, the metaphysical presence of time and community in these streets.

  9. Barbara Hill permalink
    March 3, 2017

    The school in weaver’s field is where I went until I was 11.

  10. Barbara Hill permalink
    March 3, 2017

    I also lived in Seabright St. Bethnal Green.

  11. Amran Ali permalink
    May 1, 2021

    I now live in weavers field school Barbara interesting to find out more history of this building it has been redeveloped into studios lofts etc. There’s plaques and old paintings all around the building I believe it to be 200 years plus but how did it survive during the war ?

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