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Thursday, 16 August 2012


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A lot of British cities have "east ends" as the prevailing winds blow from west to east the "noxious" trades tended to be on that side of the city and with them the poor.
The east end of London has been marked by immigration as well as poverty. A majority of the cities docks were in the east end and many immigrants didn't get much further than a few streets from the quayside.
Most of the immigrant communities have moved on to be replaced by those from the latest troubled part of the world.
Parts of my family lived there a hundred and fifty years ago but now the streets they lived on have gone vanished under bombs and development. It's a strange place to visit for me, some of the atmosphere of John Claridge's photos can still be found but round the corner a giant glass tower or box sits like some invader from the future


Mike - Thanks so much for the link to the Gedney images. They're honest and full of feeling without seeming deliberately artful or straining for drama. I knew the one from the book cover, which has been widely republished, but had not seen most of the others. The comparison with Walker Evans seems inevitable. But these photos seem more sensual--beautiful in a different way, if you will. Thanks again.

Claridge is a new name to me and I look forward to digging into those posts. The NYTimes Lens blog featured some of Gedney's pictures in January and that led me to the Duke archive. The thing that strikes me about his best pictures is that they capture a particular type of decisive moment -- a moment of exquisite human gestures. Look at the hands and postures in these pictures. There's a breathtaking gentleness and delicacy to these gestures which makes me wonder, were they unique to the groups he photographed? Or did he see these everywhere while they escape most of us?

Oh, I'm pretty sure you recommended it somewhere. How else would I have known to buy it :) (at one of those pop-up remainder shops that set up in vacant retail space, no less)

Thank you, Howard! Thank you, Ian! Thank you, Mike!

Hi Mike,

I'm guessing other people may have posted this link, but the following leads to John Claridge's website. He was an influential figure in British photography. Not really famous like David Bailey, but someone who pushed what photography could be. Many years ago I bought a copy of his limited edition of One Hundred Photographs, which really challenged to me to stop taking snaps and try some real photography. Good to see his early work being promoted.


A bit harsh; a few of the east-end base venues are temporary but most like the Velodrome and the main stadium are permanent.
All the same, great links to wonderful images.

Amazing, time capsule stuff. I grew up in Manchester in the 60s, much of my childhood environment looked like this. On the same site be sure to check out the work of a woman photographer, Daniele Lamarche http://spitalfieldslife.com/2012/08/16/daniele-lamarches-east-end/

London's not the only place where neighborhoods have been wiped out for an Olympic complex. I was in Beijing earlier this year on business and an employee of the local office took me to Beijing's Olympic park during the weekend. On the one hand he was proud of the massive complex, but on the other didn't like the way it had been done. Apparently the government razed a huge number of older neighborhoods to build the complex (unlike London they didn't make much use of existing facilities, most everything was built from scratch in one location) and the compensation given to those affected was not enough buy them similar replacement housing elsewhere in the city.

Photography content: I have no good images of the Olympic complex itself because of the (in)famous Beijing smog. I ended up trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to make the smog a feature of the photos -- i.e. showing how distant objects disappeared into the muck. One couldn't even look across the interior of the Bird's Nest stadium without having the haze wash out the colors and detail of the seats on the opposite side.

@Andrea: The main stadium was actually specifically designed and built to be deconstructable. The only permanant bit of it is a 25,000 seater arena at the base, which I think is concrete. The rest is all bolted together (not welded) with the idea that it can be taken down and reconstructed somewhere else. It remains to be seen what will happen with it - there have been negotiations for various football clubs to take it over, which seem to have foundered, but I think all of these proposals were to involve redesign of the stadium to take out the running track around the pitch. As far as I know the Velodrome is staying and in a year or two will become the HQ of British cycling. I believe that the Aquatics centre will have the main seating areas taken away to leave a smaller [and more beautiful) venue. I think the copper box is staying as well. How the "legacy" ends up remains to be seen and is subject of much debate here. Hopefully all will be well, though it will likely require a similar amount of time and effort as staging the Olympics in the first place.

John Claridge is living somewhere in France I believe, and when in London he can often be found in The French House on Dean Street, where he will tell you all about his top secret new method of printing he has been working on, the details of which I forget. Charming chap.


(Somewhat off topic)


1. I admit this may be a stupid comment that will annoy some people.
2. I love B&W photography from the sixties. I did it for a living back then.
3. I love the film look.
4. However, from the first time I used a digital capture device (about 1990), I felt that digital imaging had major advantages over film.
5. Whether looking at these photos (particular those from 1963) or looking at other 60's photos like those of the Kennedy's taken with the best cameras and by the best photographers, I am amazed at what we considered "good" quality in terms of the technical aspects of the medium.
6. You can reminisce about film all you want, but at least with regard to 35mm, can you imagine the reviews if even a point and shoot digital camera took photos of such poor technical quality today? I know many prefer the artistic appeal of film and detest the "video" look, but really, - we are so much better off with the tools we have today.

I'll add that I firmly believe that technical quality rarely has anything to do with artistic merit or meaningful photography.

Great stuff, thanks. I suppose "East End" can become a generic term. We have our area in Juneau half way between downtown and the valley where you can find some light industry, the dump, salvage yards, the prison, the halfway house, two trailer parks, and the highest concentration of registered sex offenders. Lots of bald eagles too.

Great stuff.

After looking at a few of the Claridge pages, I was struck by how many of the photos (particularly the "street") shots lean a few degrees to the right.

Full frame "contacts", viewfinder errors, the result of snap chest/hip shooting? It had me wondering all through the rest of the pages. Yes, there are a few that lean left, as well.


I read TOP every day -- I like your articles and sense of humor -- even though most days we are on completely different pages photographically.

Your article on Gedney's Appalachian photos is great. But I think you might be interested in another Appalachian photographer (one who has lived his whole life there).

I was working in the area in 1964 and 1965 when Earl Carter joined the staff at the Times News in Kingsport, Tennessee. I went to Miami, Earl stayed.

These were Earl's people and he photographed them with uncommon grace and simplicity, often returning from time to time to see how they were doing.

For one such story, see this link: http://earlcarter.com/?page_id=42

Now semi-retired, Earl has a Kickstarter project to publish a book of his Eastern Tennessee/Western Virginia photos. I have had the privilege to see and comment on the layouts and I think they are outstanding.

You can see more of his recent work on his photo blog at: southernvisions.net/

PS Earl is distantly related to June Carter Cash, though the exact lineage is somewhat murky. They have become quite good friends over the years as Earl has spent numerous hours photographing at the Carter Family Fold in nearby Virginia. Some of those shots of the early Fold are included in the book.

Thank you, Mike, for reminding me of the work of Bill Gedney -- somehow, in my senility, I'd managed to forget all about him.
I've always thought that picture of the kid rolling a smoke should be paired with another perfect image: Bruce Davidson's Girl with a kitten on a London street.
They just don't make 'em like that no more.

The East End of London: historically, London ended at the Tower - everything eastwards of there was 'not London'. Also historically London's shipping moored in the Thames, just downstream of London Bridge. As London grew as a port so docks had to be built, downstream (I.e. to the east of 'London proper'), and by the early 20th century these constituted the largest dock complex in the world. With the docks themselves came huge amounts of poor quality housing, to accommodate the required workers - hundreds of thousands of them. This was the East End, from the early nineteenth century onwards. Dock labour was brutal work, of course, always badly paid and always subject to corruption and oppression. Even in the 1960s London's docks were as big as any other (non-oil) port in the world. Unbelievably, in just 25 years they all closed down. The impossible happened: London ceased to be a port. Poverty in the East End, always bad, got even worse with the end of local employment. Basically, the best solution that anyone could come up with was wholesale redevelopment on very favourable terms, from the mid 80s onwards. The only people who didn't make a quick buck were the Eastenders themselves.

John Claridge's pictures captures London's docklands in their dying years, very evocatively.

Okay, so I bought the Gedney book, which I should have done a year ago and saved myself a bundle. I'm just sorry that it can't help him since he died young over 20 years ago (AIDS?).
I got it through your link in the article -- will it count on your account?

Hi Mike
John Claridge is also one of the most creative advertising photographers of the last 40 years and was a great advocate of GAF 500.
Is recent work also shows is creative mind is still very active.

Great admirer of Claridge, who pushed a lot of boundaries in his colour work as well.

But I wonder if a lot of the "fun" in this genre is not just their documentary nature but the insight into places that are only slightly familiar?

Looking at Gedney's photos was a link to a fond memory, albeit 25 years on, and another 24 years has passed since.

I worked in Raleigh NC for a couple of years and took a few trips to the Blue Ridge. However I took a few days off for one trip and bored with the Parkway I ventured west down some little highways into rural Tennessee and then up to Kentucky.

In the early fall, the countryside was like a rural eden. Hard to live somewhere so serene and get the hump about much, and I guess that's why the hospitality was wonderful everywhere I stopped to pass the time. Having a strange accent probably helped, especially in the local diner near the last hotel I over-nighted in. I was in Winchester Kentucky and my home town in the UK was Winchester!

Five days of long drives and long walks and getting utterly lost. Bliss! Except that my Canon AE1 shutter jammed on day 1 and I have no photos to show for it.

John Claridge is a photographer who has been round the block so many times, he's one of the most natural photographers still alive.
His series from the East End is the most honest images I have seen for a very long time, they show how it was and holds a value that is disappearing within photography, this is the real stuff, no nonsense, and if you have a look around, you will not find anything like it, this is a one off in terms of a story from real life.
I find John Claridge's images facinating, to me he is the photographer who never followed the rules always pushing for more, and therefore, for me at least he is a master of photography.
Thank you for making me aware of his East End series.

John Claridge has photographed pretty much every subject matter in every country and he is about as good as they get. With the recent pulication of his East End pictures through Spittalfields Life, we have been given a rare and precious glimpse of an incredible archive of work which spans more than 50 years. Just think of the treasures we are yet to see! The images have an incredible quality that fit so well into both fine art photography and photojournalism. We all know how important it is to document our environments in this ever changing world and John's images give us an amazing insight into Londons recent history that is already gone but thanks to John, never forgotten.

Hi Mike

I was so excited to discover your inclusion of John Claridge’s work, although not the household name that Bailey has become, John is very much the photographers photographer. His passion and seriousness for his beloved photography from such an early age has gifted us a wonderful legacy. Displaying a sense of reality and emotion both in his personal and professional work.
I would urge all those who are not familiar with Johns work to get ‘Googling’. I guarantee it will inspire you to blow the dust off your lens and get shooting again!


If you want to see how Charles Dickens a century later would have chronicled visually the decline of the British/London East End Empire then look no further than the inspirational John Claridge photographic imagery back in the 1960s and 1970s (his Spitalfields Collection) . . . no wonder such youthful precociousness developed into one of the world's finest photographers!

I have known Claridge for many years now, and can attest to his being a gentleman as well as an artist.

The juxtaposition of his urban work with Gedney's Appalachian images on this website is especially welcome.

Odd to think that while Claridge's East End of London is for me, of such tender years, born in 1970, a record of an almost foreign past although in the country of my birth, known largely through cinema as much as photography, the shots of Kentucky look startlingly familiar, the result of my spending a few months there in the early 1990s.

Thank you for the website. Keep up the good work.

Eamonn Gearon.

The power of digital editing makes lens choice much less critical than it once was. It is now possible to correct distortion, deconvolute blurriness, adjust global and local contrast and tweak white balance and saturation--all with relative ease. In so doing, a mediocre lens can magically seem like a stellar one. I have recently been re-working some old photos taken with a 10MP camera and an average quality zoom lens. Using the latest editing software (and improved skills on my part,) the results are very impressive indeed. If I told people that the photos were shot with Zeiss lenses, few would find reason to doubt it.

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