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John Claridge’s Spent Moments

May 22, 2022
by the gentle author

Bookings for THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S TOURS are now open for June & July

Self-Portrait with Keith (standing behind with cigarette), E7 (1961).

“We still meet up for a drink and put the world to rights.”

Here is the young photographer John Claridge at seventeen years of age in 1961, resplendent in a blue suede jacket from Carnaby St worn with a polo neck sweater and pair of Levis, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the character played by David Hemmings in ‘Blow-Up’ five years later.

On the evidence of this set of photographs alone it is apparent that John loves people, because each picture is the outcome of spending time with someone and records the tender moment of connection that resulted. Every portrait repays attention, since on closer examination each one deepens into a complex range of emotions. In particularly intimate examples – such as Mr Scanlan 1966 and the cheeky lady of 1982 – the human soul before John’s lens appears to shimmer like a candle flame in a haze of emotionalism. The affection that he shows for these people, as one who grew up among them in the East End, colours John’s pictures with genuine sentiment.

Even in those instances – such as the knife grinder in 1963 and the lady on the box in Spitalfields 1966 – in which the picture records a momentary encounter and the subjects retain a distance from the lens, presenting themselves with a self-effacing dignity, there is an additional tinge of emotionalism. In other pictures – such as the dance poster of 1964 and the windows in E1 of 1966 – John set out to focus on the urban landscape and the human subjects created the photographic moment that he cherished by walking into the frame unexpectedly. From another perspective, seeing the picture of the mannequin in the window, we share John’s emotional double-take on discovering that the female nude which drew his eager gaze is, in fact, a shop dummy.

For John, these photographs are not images of loss but moments of delight, savouring times well spent. If it were not for photography, John might only have flickering memories of the East End in his youth, yet these pictures capture the people that drew his eye and those that he loved half a century ago, fixing their images eternally.

Across the Street, E1 (1982)  I did a double-take when I first saw this. In fact, it was a mannequin in the window. Still looked good.”

School Cap, Spitalfields (1963) – “I just found this surreal. It was as if the man behind was berating a nine-year-old who couldn’t care less.”

Two Friends, Spitalfields (1968) – “They were walking along sharing one piece of bread.”

The Box, Spitalfields(1960) I came across this lady sitting on an orange box, there was nothing else around. Then she got up and walked off with her box.”

Labour Exchange, E13 (1963) Never an uncommon sight.”

Ex-Middleweight Boxer, Cable St (1960) – “We were talking about boxing when he just gave me the thumps-up.”

Knife Grinder, E13 (1966)  – “Every few weeks he would appear at the end of the street. Quite a cross-section of people had their knives sharpened!”

Mr Scanlon, E13 (1966) – “My next door neighbour. Always with a wicked sense of humour and an equally wicked smile.”

The Doorway, E2 (1962) – To this day I would still like to know where her thoughts were.”

Crane Driver, E16 (1975)  – “He could balance a crushed car on half a crown and still give you change.”

59 Club, E9 (1973) – “The noise of the pinball machines with the sound of the jukebox playing Jerry Lee.”

A 7/6 Jacket, E13 (1969) – “He had a small shed where he sold anything he could find, which he collected in a small handcart.”

A Portrait, E1 (1982) – “This special lady asked me ‘Why do you want to photo me?’ I replied ‘Because you look cheeky.’ This is the picture.”

Scrap Dealer, E16 (1975) – “This was shot in Canning Town, near the Terry Lawless boxing gym.”

The Step, Spitalfields (1963) – “A kid at play.”

Dance Poster, E2 (1964) – “I was taking a picture of the distressed posters when he glided past.”

The Windows, Spitalfields (1960) – “Behind every window.”

My Mum & Dad, Plaistow (1964) – “Taken in the backyard.”

Fallen Angel, E7 (1960) – “There were a lot of fallen angels in the East End.”

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

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Andy permalink
    May 22, 2022

    It is these kind of photos that make me glad I vame from the East End.

  2. May 22, 2022

    As always, John’s photos take me right back to the East End I lived in.
    The faces and the powerful images resonate and reignite so many memories……thank you.

  3. May 22, 2022

    John Claridge’s photographs remind me of a discovery I made myself when I was taking photographs: at the moment they are taken, human faces are transient in time — it is only when you look at the finished photographs at a distance in time that you recognise their strong characters.

    Love & Peace

  4. Richard Smith permalink
    May 22, 2022

    Claridges’s pictures are very evocative and underline the idea that everyone has their tale to tell. I enjoyed looking at them and thinking about them. Thanks.

  5. Mark permalink
    May 22, 2022

    Moving and beautiful.
    Mr Scanlon bears more than a passing resemblance to Eric Blair (George Orwell.)
    John Claridge is perhaps the finest photographer that ever existed on these septic Isles.
    Made my Sunday morning, thanks!

  6. May 22, 2022

    Very difficult to express……….but I will make an attempt.
    John Claridge’s photos of HIS surroundings and well-loved environs have given ME a much
    deeper/layered insight into the gritty city I grew up in. Pittsburgh in the 1950s was a place of
    grime, coal dust, earnest workers, loving neighbors, impish kids, glittering moments of culture,
    grinding decades of labor, ethnic flavors and voices, aspirations, equivocations. And so much more. Need I add — I would not change an instant of my upbringing in that city of stark contradictions. Hushed libraires/raucous saloons. Sports mania/a symphony playing on a river barge. White sheets drying on a line/”granular” air quality and red dust.
    Thank you John Claridge and GA.

  7. Cherub permalink
    May 23, 2022

    These are such fantastic images – there is something about black and white photography, it often has a greater depth than colour.

    I particularly like the “cool dudes” photo from 1961, it’s the year I was born.

  8. Bailey Jones permalink
    May 23, 2022

    Great photos. Full of a whistful emotions.

  9. Marcia Howard permalink
    June 20, 2022

    A lost world, although thankfully immortalised in stunning photography. I grew up in London, and recall the knife grinder coming round to where we lived, and also a man mending the cane seating of a chair, sat on the kerb along Sloane Street SW3, with his feet in the road.

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