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A Few Diversions By John Claridge

July 4, 2022
by the gentle author

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The Daily Message in E3, 1972

Taken between 1959 and 1982, each one of these East End pictures by John Claridge contains a diversion of some kind – either illustrating an activity that is incidental to the flow of life or presenting an observation that is itself a distraction. “These are small incidents, humdrum diversions like going to the hairdresser or the baths, not shattering moments but part of the life of the community all the same,” he assured me. Yet although these sly visual anecdotes may refer to marginal or quotidian experiences, they can sometimes reveal as much or more about the texture and tenor of their times than any news photo of the day.

John collected his observations of life out of a fascination to explore the strange poetry of existence, revealing his interest in reflections upon images seen through glass, his passion for lettering and design, and especially his delight in people. He takes pleasure in observing how they inhabit a place, and how they show their creativity when they strive to make themselves at home, even in the most unlikely or inopportune of circumstances.

Bridalwear shop, Spitalfields 1966. “Wherever you went at that time, there was always a bridal shop.”

Twenty past one? Spitalfields 1967. “You couldn’t design it better!”

American wrestler and trainer, Walthamstow Town Hall 1982.  “They asked me to take the picture.”

Barbers, Spitalfields 1964. (note spelling of ‘closing’)

Accordion player, Spitalfields, 1970. “He was playing under an arch and the sound drifted around, it was wonderful.”

Corsetiere, Whitechapel 1961. “A man came up to me while I was doing this and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m taking a picture,’ I said. ‘There’s something wrong  with you, lad,’ he replied.”

East Ham baths, E6 1961. “After Saturday morning football, we always went to East Ham baths to have a bath.”

Football in the street, Spitalfields 1959.

Sweet kiosk, Spitalfields 1967. “See my reflection in this picture. She was so proud. Afterwards, she and her friends came out to be photographed.”

Snack bar – cold drinks, Spitalfields 1982.

Boy on a rocking horse, E2 1982. “Look at the conditions he’s living in. The bars look like a prison and he’s got nowhere to go.”

At the 59 bikers’ club, E9 1973. Founded by Father William Shergold, biker priest, in 1959 to bring mods and rockers together.

Lady on the balcony, Spitalfields 1962. “Her diversion for the day was standing there and watching the world go by.”

Windmill seller,  E2 1961.

Washing day, E14 1961. “I just came out of my girlfriend’s house and she said, ‘Look, it’s washday across the road.'”

Man with jobs poster, Spitalfields 1963. “I asked him, ‘Are you alright for a couple of bob?’ and he sat in the sun for me for a moment.”


Ear piercing, Spitalfields 1964. Is this ear piercing done to people over five years of age, or has the jeweller been piercing ears since five years of age?

Hotdog van, Spitalfields 1961.

Cup of tea, Spitalfields 1964. “Settled onto this old sofa in the market, enjoying his cup of tea, he looks like he should be wearing an eighteenth century wig and coat.”

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

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Marnie permalink
    July 4, 2022

    The hotdog van is fine, but what’s the significance of the cross on the pile rocks surrounded by a tight wrought-iron fence topped with ferocious spear points? Must be of historic importance. ‘An inquiring mind wants to know…’

  2. July 4, 2022

    THIS is it. Everyday moments are more important than any world news, no matter how exciting. Playing football in the street (photographer J.H.Darchinger immortalised a very similar counterpart at the same time:, listening to a bit of music and, when the time comes, enjoying one’s tea even in an unusual place. — THIS is real life, which John Claridge was able to capture masterfully.

    Love & Peace

  3. Marcia Howard permalink
    July 4, 2022

    Love all the captions, but thought picture of the Corsets in window was probably still very Risque for its time. Had to smile at the strangers comment though.

  4. July 4, 2022

    Morning Marnie. Thanks for your comment. Quite simple really. Getting a hotdog is easy, getting to the cross is not. Not that I am religious, but it just made me smile.

    All the best, John

  5. July 4, 2022

    “A teachable moment”. John Claridge teaches us to NOTICE. His photos affirm his credo: It ALL counts, and every soul matters. His photos always fill me with admiration, and touch my heart.
    I’ve looked at his images many times, but today was the first day I thought of the word
    “inclusion”; and it seems so apt. He layered so many emotions, provocations, reactions,
    and observations in each frame……and he included us on his journey.

    Very hard to express. I’m so grateful for these images today. A respite from a long bout of
    hard news.

    (and those corsets!? — fortifications made of miles of fabric, grommets, lacings,
    zippers, and elastic. Really gave me a chuckle.)

  6. Sonia Murray permalink
    July 4, 2022

    One wonders what became of the boy on the rocking horse. I’d love to know if he was rehoused – people think the blocks are soulless but some of what they replaced was infinitely worse – and was able to get an education and have a good life. Black and white film was so much more revealing than the pictures we take today. John Claridge’s compassion shines through these wonderful photographs.

  7. Ana-Maria Gallo permalink
    July 4, 2022

    I’m not surprised by the reaction I had, gentle tears with a faint smile struggling to take hold of my face.

    Is it the pathos of daily life, the melancholy of fleeting moments, or that joy can be found in unexpected places?

    I have no clue, only that my day has been deeply enriched by Mr Claridges timeless images.

  8. July 4, 2022

    Another ‘Back to The Future’ moment for me John….and would I change anything?
    Probably not.
    You have captured the very essence of East End life as it was, warts and all.
    Us Eastenders never really knew they were ‘warts’ at the time though, it was simply the place where we lived.

  9. Linda Granfield permalink
    July 4, 2022

    The ear piercing sign! Reminds me of a sign I saw in the window of a restaurant in Niagara Falls, Canada.

    Spaghetti $8.95
    Children $4.95

    Thanks for bringing back the memory of that chuckle. And I love the tiny, sample-size, corset! Giving thanks that we don’t have to wear that under-armor any more!!

  10. Cherub permalink
    July 5, 2022

    I also wondered what became of the little boy on the rocking horse, were his family housed in better conditions and did he have a future?
    Often when I look at these old photos I try to imagine how people survived, I suspect in a lot of cases it was from day to day. They are often quite sad images, yet strangely uplifting at the same time as they make me realise how very fortunate I am.

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