Skip to content

John Claridge’s Soho Faces

September 30, 2021
by the gentle author

Only a few tickets left for THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S WALKING TOUR OF SPITALFIELDS on Sunday October 3rd at noon. Email to book.

Map of the Gentle Author’s Tour drawn by Adam Dant


Join me on a ramble through Spitalfields taking less than two hours, but walking through two thousand years of history and encountering just a few of the people who have made the place distinctive.

Click here for further information


Spike Milligan, Comedian & Writer


Contributing Photographer John Claridge’s exhibition SOHO FACES opens at the House of St Barnabas in Greek St, Soho, W1D 4NQ, on Thursday 7th October.


“I started taking portraits of people at The French House in the seventies when I took a picture of Gaston Berlemont. Then, while taking Spike Milligan’s portrait, we got to talking about Soho. At the time, I was living in Frith St, so Ronnie Scott’s and The French were both very familiar to us and, even then, both of us voiced our sadness at changes we saw – lovely delicatessens, independent restaurants and specialists shops closing down, all of which had been there for years.

In 2004, I decided to document the customers at The French in earnest. For me, it was the one place in Soho that still held its Bohemian character, where people truly chose to share time and conversation, and I became aware that many I had once chinked glasses with were no longer around.

These portraits of the regulars are a cross-section of those who sat for me, but there is no rhyme or reason to my selection.”

– John Claridge


Molly Parkin, Painter & Novelist

Gaz Mayall, Musician

Lisa Stansfield, Simger & Songwriter

Eddie Gray, Jazz Violinist

Lesley Lewis, Owner of The French House

Kenny Clayton, Jazz Pianist

Fergus Henderson, Chef & Restauranteur

Georgina Sutcliffe, Actor

John Phillips, Journalist

Norman Balon, Landlord of the Coach & Horses

Millie Laws, Reflexologist

George Baker, Actor

Oliver Bernard, Poet

Clare Shenstone, Artist

Peter Boizot, Founder of Pizza Express

Peter Owen, Publisher

Vanessa Fenton, Dancer at the Royal Ballet & Choreographer

Sebastian Horsley, Artist

Burt Kwouk, Actor

Kevin Petillo, Television Producer

Pinkietessa, Costume maker

James Birch, Art Dealer

Jay Landesman, Nightclub Owner, Writer & Publisher

Anna Lujan Sanchez, Dancer with Ballet Rambert

Freddie Jones, Actor

Paul Lawford, of The Rubbishmen of Soho

Alison Steadman, Actor

Gaston Berlemont, Former Publican at The French House

Paul Barlow, Cyclist

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

At the Salvation Army in the Eighties


11 Responses leave one →
  1. David Ellison permalink
    September 30, 2021

    These wonderful, professional photographic portraits / studies of Soho characters are a reminder of life as it was when I was around there in the late sixties & seventies as a young man, now living in Australia, thanks for the memories, so treasured!
    Many thanks!

  2. September 30, 2021

    Yes, there are photographers who know how to capture real chaps. John Claridge belongs to those.

    Love & Peace

  3. Herry Lawford permalink
    September 30, 2021

    Absolutely wonderful!

  4. Milo Bell permalink
    September 30, 2021

    As an aspiring young actor i used to frequent both the French and the Coach and Horses throughout the 80’s and half of the 90’s and what a fine ‘education’ it was. Such characters. I still pop in to the French when i get back to London and it still has a few of them left. But where are the young ones? Where are the up and coming dissolutes? Surely Ne’er do wells still exist?

  5. keithb permalink
    September 30, 2021

    Compare with Felix Nadar’s portraits from the start of photography. Claridge moves us in closer and insists on eye contact. The contrast emphasises the journey each face has made!

  6. Kate Bacon permalink
    September 30, 2021

    Beautiful portraits, AND I find it interesting that the male sitters are very three dimensional and “solid” whereas the portraits of women are very etherial and “airbrushed”…

  7. September 30, 2021

    Simply stunning photographs.

  8. Bill permalink
    October 1, 2021

    This man Claridge is the real deal! Major photographic portraits. Museum curators must want them, fools if they don’t.

    Milo asks,”But where are the young ones? Where are the up and coming dissolutes? Surely Ne’er do wells still exist?”

    Ah, could dissolutes be at the end of an august line, Milo?

    A desperate question, in reply.

  9. October 1, 2021

    Wonderful images, although apart from just a few, I don’t recognise the names of most of them here. One I do personally remember though is Burt Kwouk. My father-in-law had a health food store on Bedford Hill in Balham until his sudden death in the early 1980s, and Burt Kwouk was a very regular customer.

  10. Milo permalink
    October 1, 2021

    Quick reply to Bill. Well i’m doing my darnedest to carry on the tradition but i need back up.

  11. Bill permalink
    October 1, 2021

    Back to Milo from Bill: I am 100% behind you! And, in dissolution, perhaps a little bit ahead?

    To all the dissolutes!

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS