Tag Archives: East London

John Claridge, Over 50 Years of Archived Work

On the 30th of August 2012 I published the first of what has become a long series of books by John Claridge.  John worked through the ‘Golden Age’ of advertising, for many international big name brands. With each commercial project though, John found time to make some work for himself.

John grew up in the East End of London, and it’s there that we began with our books. Some images and details below, more will follow as I slowly create an archive for Café Royal Books.

This text has been written by John Chillingworth and Helena Srakocic-Kovac and details significant moments of his career.

 At about the age of eight, John’s life-long passion for photography that was born when he spotted a plastic camera at a local funfair in London’s East End, where he was born in 1944. He just had to win it, it was as simple as that. Knowing that possessing the camera would let him take home all the memories of that day.

There is always something new to appreciate about ‘ground-breaking’ professional photography. John Chillingworth wrote in his series evaluating photography’s ‘greats’, that he has seldom, if ever, met someone with the same natural creative needs as the good and great of earlier generations. Whatever the rule, John Claridge is the exception.

Another case of déja vu?  An East End education (or lack of it).  Left school at 15 – talked his way into his first job in photography and the rest is history!

Well, no! John Claridge is, in every way, a one-off.   True, the boy from Plaistow, with a handful of ‘jack-the-lad’ cultural contemporaries could have drifted into dead-end employment, or brushes with the law, or worse, but there was something different about him.

As a consequence, in 1960, at the behest of the West Ham Labour Exchange, he dressed in his best East End ‘duds’. With hair plastered a jaunty angle and armed only with a bucketful of determination, the boy from Plaistow went ‘up West’. The interview resulted in a job at McCann-Erickson in the Photographic Department.

He strode forward with the kind of youthful exuberance, which college-educated contemporaries often failed to comprehend, let alone emulate, Claridge grew in stature.

During the two years he worked at McCanns, not only did he have his first one-man show,  he was inspired by many, namely the legendary designer Robert Brownjohn. His work that was exhibited at this first one-man show was acclaimed in the photographic press as ‘shades of Walker Evans’.

At seventeen he turned up on the doorstep of Bill Brandt’s Hampstead home – to give him one of his treasured prints.  Gentle and polite, Brandt invited him in;  sought the young Claridge’s opinion on his current work and sent him away feeling ten feet high.

Recommended by established photographers and art directors, he became David Montgomery’s assistant between the ages of fifteen and seventeen.

By the tender age of nineteen he had opened his own studio near London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. His ideas and his images matured rapidly.   A mix of editorial and advertising commissions brought him and his easy confidence to the attention of 1960s advertising trend-setters. The result of which has been the presentation of over 700 awards for his work.

His by-line became familiar in many of the monthly magazines of the day and his reputation began to move from a national to an international level.

By the age of twenty-three, as well as having a home on the Essex marshes and a de rigueur E-type Jaguar, although his real sporting love was and still is the motorbike, he had written, produced and shot a short film titled  “Five Soldiers”.   An American Civil War tale which, when shown on a university campus in the US, caused a riot among the students as it was compared with the war in Vietnam   …  the press said compared the film tp Luis Buñuel.   The film was eventually banned but made its way onto the underground circuit.

He realises now that he had been working in the ‘golden age of advertising’, and as the years melted into decades, the commissions took him around the world.   Tourist boards in the Bahamas, India and the US recognised his highly individual visual talent. Banks, whisky distillers, international corporations, car manufacturers, all were (and still are) prepared to give him his head to creative images that inspired their ad agency art directors to greater and more stunning campaigns.   The result of which has been the presentation of over 700 awards for his work.

John’s work has moved on over recent years.   Here is what eminent photography critic and historian Helena Srakocic-Kovac recently had to say about John’s work:   “When you decided to pull back from advertising  …  which, I think, is such a shame because you revolutionised it and elevated it to an art form  …  you have been substituting it with work of equivalent value, guts and visual strength but so very different  …   so much to see  …   to me at times it appears as if it’s not yours  …  unstructured and scattered in its beauty  …  you used to tell stories and now it’s more about feelings and moments in life  …”

His work is held in museums and private collections worldwide, including The Arts Council of Great Britain, Victoria & Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery and The Museum of Modern Art.

He has also published several books under his own imprint:

·       South American Portfolio (1982)
·       One Hundred Photographs (1988)
·       Seven Days in Havana (2000)
·       8 Hours (2002)
·       In Shadows I Dream (2003)
·       Silent Ballads (2013)
·       Seven Days in Havana – Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7 – seven volumes (2013)
·       Presenting Clowns – Act 1 (2013)
·       Paintings (2014)
·       Tommy Cooper (2014)
·       Tuscany (2014)
·       The Last Ride (2014)

Text ©John Chillingworth and Helena Srakocic-Kovac. Photographs © John Claridge. Books in the images© Café Royal Books.

Original prints, lithographs and books can be purchased through Nicky Akehurst. Further prints for sale.

Another Time Another Place
John Claridge
2012
28 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital
Numbered edition of 100

Along the Thames
John Claridge
2012
28 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital
Numbered edition of 100

 

George Plemper – Thamesmead

George Plemper  worked in a then new Thamesmead; parts were still being constructed. A major Modernist development, a new society, new community, a problem solver perhaps. I’m interested in Brutalist and modernist architecture (and estates). How it can create and serve a community, how it functions generally and the unapologetic nature of the buildings and materials used in their construction.

George and I have released two books so far with two more coming in the new year, all archive work. The publication details follow this text from George, in response to me asking quite broadly, why he took these pictures.

“The camera and my love of photography came into my life uninvited” always comes to mind. By this I think that what I mean is that I was never that interested in photography and I bought a camera as a tool, in a vain attempt to rescue my failing teaching career. Of course, this quest was an abject failure but on a more positive note people liked my pictures and this encouraged me to do more.

A few years later I found myself in a Riverside School classroom with a camera in my hand. This time I was using photography as a teaching aid to reinforce my pupils’ sense of self and self-esteem.

One day around 1976 I was walking in St Martin’s Place, London and across the road I saw a poster of Paul Strand’s “Young Boy at Gondeville”; it stopped my world. Despite the distance I was stunned by the seemingly telepathic impact of the image and I never looked at a photograph in the same way again.  As my fascination with photography grew, the work of the early documentary photographers (Julia Margaret) Cameron, (Lewis) Hine, (August) Sander, and (Eugène) Atget took me to their own place in time. I have come to understand that the power of a photograph is not defined by technique, form or line and neither is a photograph a memory trace.

In my existence memories are ephemeral and insubstantial and a photograph is always physical and substantial.  The photograph provides an intuitive description of photographer’s experience of the world as it manifests to them. If we learn to look deeply, we can see through the photographer’s eyes, see what they saw, feel their presence in the world. This is what led me to take these pictures. They are a small testament to my existence on Earth.  Although it is true that I took the photographs, I do not want to be burdened with the label “photographer”.

Plemper’s photographs aren’t nostalgic. They are very much a record of time and a place – a new place. A new kind of place, untested and unknown. This series puts Plemper in the role of community photographer and documentarian. What is also apparent is that today these photographs would not be taken, and certainly not broadcast or published. A mix of paranoia, safety and hype would sterilise the work, perhaps making room only for generic, over-priced and badly lit mottled back-drop school photographs in which the child stares blankly over the photographer’s shoulder into the eyes of the ‘entertainer’ employed to make the child face forward.

This particular series, published recently by Café Royal Books in ‘Thamesmead and Abbey Wood 1977 – 1982’ is almost devoid of people. Topographic photographs , like Baltz and Adams, not the Bechas. However, the inclusion of the boys on the bridge disrupt and perhaps soften the architectural images of construction.

George Plemper’s Café Royal Books publications can be found here:
Sunderland and South Shields in the 1980s
Thamesmead and Abbey Wood 1977 – 1982

Thamesmead Riverside School 1976 – 1978 One will be released next week, 27.11.14, and part two early 2015.

All images © George Plemper.

Daniel Meadows: 40 Years, 40 Weeks, 40 Movies

It’s forty years this month since Daniel Meadows completed his epic ten-thousand mile journey around England in his ‘Free Photographic Omnibus‘; the bus in which he lived during 1973-1974. It was also his darkroom and gallery.

Meadows is releasing a series of short movies, one every week for the next forty weeks.  Each movie focusses on a different story from his archive (which has just been acquired by the Library of Birmingham) and helps us to understand the incredible breadth of his work.

I will post reminders as these movies become available, but please subscribe to Daniel’s Facebook and Vimeo streams too.

no. 8: Mrs Emare” is the first release.
no. 8: Mrs Emare

no. 4: Bonfire Night (Angela again)” is the second.
no. 4: Bonfire Night (Angela again)

Tony Bock’s Social Landscapes in Britain

So far, I have published two books by Tony Bock, each focussing on a part of his Social Landscapes series shot during the 1970s. This week I am ‘releasing’ the third book in the series, Social Landscapes East London in the 1970s.

I first came across Tony’s work on the excellent Spitalfields Life. What attracted me to his work was the apparent honesty of the images. They look like they are shot by a tourist, although they don’t look like tourist photographs. I mean they have the innocence and playfulness of photographs taken by someone who doesn’t live in the place they are shooting, but a compositional and narrative structure which, in places, is reminiscent of shots from Tony Ray Jones‘s ‘a day off’, or Homer Sykes‘s ‘Once a Year’. The focus is human behaviour; the crowds and in some cases the emptiness or lack of crowd, the solitude of the photographer and topography of the area. Mostly he goes unnoticed, documenting moments which have become a record of change.

I asked Tony what led him to take these photographs.

When I was given a 35mm camera for my twenty-first birthday, I knew then I wanted to be a photographer.

But in 1972, after being asked to leave the Photo Arts course at Ryerson Polytechnic in Toronto, I found myself living in Yorkshire. Immediately, I was intrigued by this new and visually rich place, the beauty and character of the landscape, both rural and urban, and its people. And mostly I was fascinated by the overlapping of the past with the present.

A year later I moved to East London, working for several newspapers covering the area from Whitechapel to Essex. Another compelling place, and a great time to be there.

My family came from this part of London, my mother was born in Bow, and grew up in Dagenham. My Grandad, a docker, had worked in the Royal Docks for many years.

Then in 1978, I was offered work at The Toronto Star, the largest paper in Canada.  The racism and pollution in the East End were getting me down and when Maggie Thatcher was elected – well – that was enough to send me back home.

I worked at The Star for over thirty years, a great place to be a photojournalist. It was (and still is) a paper with a long history of great journalism, with editors that cared about photography. It had the budget to undertake long term projects, deal with social issues and send its staff around the world.

Today, I work on personal projects and contribute to Photosensitive, a group of photographers concerned with social change. But mostly, my wife Lyn and I spend much of our time restoring an old village railway station about eighty miles from Toronto. It was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1904, but now sits in the woods, it hasn’t seen a train in over fifty years.

station_670

I try to tell a story with my photographs. They are not just arty arrangements of subject matter in the 2×3 rectangle, but there should be relationships that develop between the elements. And when the images are edited into a sequence, they should be making a narrative. The world is a visual place to be, and photographers use a non-verbal vocabulary to describe their experience.

Tony Bock, 2014

Tony Bock’s Café Royal Books publications can be found here:
Social Landscapes London in the 1970s
Social Landscapes Britain in the 1970s
Social Landscapes East London in the 1970s

All images © Tony Bock. Publications © Café Royal Books.