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People On The Street & A Cat

June 20, 2022
by the gentle author

Some tickets are available for my tour of Spitalfields next Saturday 25th June

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 poverty stricken 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

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

7 Responses leave one →
  1. June 20, 2022

    And these scenes were once “commonplace” to me too…..
    Thank you John for capturing a world that most of the newcomers, eager to live in the ‘fashionable East End’ now …would not understand or appreciate.

  2. June 20, 2022

    John Claridge has remained true to his own style over the decades. That, too, is what makes his photos so special.

    Love & Peace

  3. Murray permalink
    June 20, 2022

    The most hearfelt and lucid east end photos

  4. June 20, 2022

    Each one of these pictures carries a story behind it. Of course, my favorite is at the ’59 Club, 1973, and the cat looking at the camera.

  5. Paul Loften permalink
    June 20, 2022

    A striking reminder of a lost world .Thank you for the wonderful photos , both John and GA .
    The lost world of Spitalfields has many layers in time . The question asked about the boy with the hat brings back a memory from my fathers era. He grew up in Raven Row the back street of the Old London Hospital . He once told me when he was about the same age as the boy , it must’ve been the 1920’s a man with a barrow trundled down the cobbled street selling old Pith helmets dating from the Boer War . Of course all the children rushed out with a penny in their hands to grab one and the old barrow was pushed away empty with the seller pleased as punch.
    The street became full of the children wearing the old Boer Helmets playing war games .
    The following week He was in a ward of The London Hospital full up with the same children suffering from an outbreak of scabbies caught from the helmets. He knew every one of the children there with him so at least they had a good time there . He mentioned the fondness of the nursing staff that looked after the children . I think they had a good time too

  6. Mary permalink
    June 20, 2022

    The wonderful John Claridge! There is no better recorder of the old East End.

  7. Ros permalink
    June 20, 2022

    I think John Claridge is a lucky man, to have known so early what he wanted to do, to have followed it though, and to have made a whole life from the beauty and poetry of his photography. Spitalfields in the late 60s and 70s was full of people who had fallen through life’s cracks and were often isolated and uncared for. But John’s love and tender feelings shine through, and this is part of what makes the pictures so moving.

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