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John Claridge’s Other World

September 23, 2016
by the gentle author

John Claridge’s EAST END photography exhibition opens at The Society Club, 12 Ingestre Place, Soho, W1, next Tuesday 27th September 7pm. John will sign copies of his book, and he & I will be discussing his East End photography during the evening. All readers are invited.


“Sometimes, I speak with my mates and they say, ‘We’ve come from another world,'” John Claridge admitted to me in astonishment, recalling his origins in the post-war East End and introducing this set of pictures. To create the series, John has been revisiting his old negatives, printing photographs that he took decades ago and surprising himself by the renewed acquaintance with lost visions of that other world, unseen since the moment the shutter fell. Yet even in his youth, John was drawn to the otherness that existed in his familiar landscape, transformed through his lens into a strange environment of dark brooding beauty – inflected by his passion for surrealism, the writing of Franz Kafka and film noir.

“It’s difficult for me to explain why I am attracted to things.” John confessed, “I was off doing other work, producing commercial photography and making films, but I never stopped taking pictures of the East End. Some of these images have never been printed before, and it’s strange when I see the prints now because I have a good memory of taking them, even though I had forgotten how much I had done.”

Always alert to the dramatic potential of the cityscape, John recognised that the magnificence of a gasometer could be best appreciated when photographed by moonlight – in John’s mind’s eye, every location proposed a scenario of imaginative possibility. The images you see here are those that burned themselves onto his consciousness, stills from his photographic dreaming, and when we look at them we can share his reverie and construct our own fictions. His titles read like the titles of grand narratives, firing the poetic imagination to enter another, dystopian, world where industrial buildings become prisons and monumental landscapes are ravaged by unexplained derelection.

John knew the East End when it was still scarred from the bombing of World War II and then he witnessed the slum clearances, the closure of the docks, the end of manufacturing and the tide of redevelopment that overtook it all. His soulful urban landscapes record decisive moments within decades of epic transformation that altered the appearance of the territory forever. “Some things needed changing, though not all the demolition that happened was necessary,” John informed me. Then, regretful of the loss of that other world yet mindful of the resilience of the psyche, he continued his thought, adding – “but people have a spirit and you can’t break that.”

IT TOLLS FOR THEE, Whitechapel Bell Foundry 1982.




GRAVEYARD, E16 1975.

WATCHTOWER, Spitalfields 1982. “If you look at from where I was standing, you might expect to see someone trying to escape and a guard firing a machine gun from the watchtower.”

THE HOOK, Whitechapel Bell Foundry 1982.

UNLOADED, E16 1962.

DETOUR, E16 1964.

LABYRINTH, E16 1982.

NO ENTRANCE, E13 1962.


THE WINDOW, E16 1982.

DARK CORNER, E16 1987.

BLIND SPOT, E16 1987.


PIER D, E16 1982.

THE CASTLE, E16 1987 – “It has a mocking face!”

THE LONG WALK, E16 1982.

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

9 Responses leave one →
  1. September 23, 2016

    I love the stark and harsh reality in John’s photos, they always take me back to my childhood and youth in London’s East End. Valerie

  2. September 23, 2016

    I have the book; I’ve looked at it scores of times. John’s photography of the East End has a magnetic attraction.

  3. Terry Smyth permalink
    September 23, 2016

    Brilliant photos. I too have the book. Pleased to see the Whitechapel bell foundry amongst these. Everyone should visit if they possibly can – a real ‘past in the present’ experience.

  4. September 23, 2016

    These black and white photographs are so much more effective.

    Love & Peace

  5. September 23, 2016

    Another opportunity to say how much I have enjoyed “East End”. This book welcomes
    endless exploration. This body of work is about a time and place (and community of people) that I have never known — and yet I feel a deep connection to all of it. One of the most vivid and personal collections of photos I have seen. Deeply affecting, and truly distinctive.

  6. Malcolm permalink
    September 23, 2016

    Apart from the obvious quality of John’s photographs, which goes without saying, he is also a master printer. Having seen his prints up close they are superb examples of the art of photographic printing from negatives, rather than bland digital laser prints.
    It’s also interesting to see familiar places – some of which I have photographed – presented from a different angle. The inherent dark foreboding beauty in John’s work is the result of his skill as an artist and master printer with a unique view.

  7. pauline taylor permalink
    September 23, 2016

    Very impressive as always, and Malcolm has said it all for me, just brilliant!!

  8. Neville Turner permalink
    September 24, 2016

    A reminder of a very stark and unatractive east end which was impending on the mind of those who living and working around were affected,another world it was and all the better for it’s passing as shown by John’s excellent photo’s.

  9. September 27, 2016

    Top shelf stuff ! (I mean Saloon Bar not newsagents). I asked a Classic Car pal about Graveyard he replied ‘Weirdly 3 of them are the same kind of car – Austin A50. Obviously a MK 8 Jag and the two Fords but the one at a jaunty 45 degree angle is a bit harder – Vauxhall Velox…”

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