“I started taking portraits of people at The French House in the 70s when I took a picture of Gaston Berlemont. Then, while taking Spike Milligan’s portrait, we got to talking about Soho. At the time, I was living in Frith St, so Ronnie Scott’s and The French were both very familiar to us and, even then, both of us voiced our sadness at changes we saw – lovely delicatessens, independent restaurants and specialists shops closing down, all of which had been there for years.
“In 2004, I decided to document the customers at The French in earnest. For me, it was the one place in Soho that still held its Bohemian character, where people truly chose to share time and conversation, and I became aware that many I had once chinked glasses with were no longer around.
“These portraits of the regulars are a cross-section of those who sat for me, but there is no rhyme or reason to my selection.”
John Claridge, 2017
There is no time like the present for a project documenting the champs, chumps and charlatans* who have imbued Soho with its gamey character over the decades; dreaded “gentrification” in the form of drastic changes being wrought by property developers is steadily defanging the central London area.