Obituary: Roger Mayne, Documentarian of London’s Post-War Working Class

"Southam Street, 1956" © Roger Mayne/Courtesy Quaritch

“Southam Street, 1956″ © Roger Mayne/Courtesy Quaritch

Roger Mayne, whose images of working class neighborhoods in London in the late 1950s established his reputation as an important post-war British photographer, died June 7th at the age of 85, according to a statement from Gitterman Gallery. The cause of death was a heart attack, the gallery says.

Mayne began photographing working class youth and neighborhoods of West London in 1956, two years after moving to the city to become a photographer. “For Mayne, even the empty streets and dilapidated buildings had ‘a kind of decaying splendor,’” says Gitterman. Mayne spent five years on the project, and his work captured the spirit of an era before London’s run-down neighborhoods were razed and modernized, destroying many of the working class communities in the process.

He was particularly interested in the lively youth culture–”teddy boys, jiving girl, and kids playing in the streets,” according to his Gitterman. “By 1959 Mayne’s images were so indicative of this period that Vogue used them to illustrate teenage styles.”

His work was recognized early by various photographic societies and institutions. In 1956, he had solo exhibitions at the George Eastman House in Rochester, and at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. During the late 1950s, his work appeared in a number of group shows. The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago also acquired prints of his work.

Mayne went on to a successful career as a freelance photographer, working for various magazines and newspapers. A solo exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum in 1986 renewed interest in his work, according to Gitterman. His work has since appeared in several exhibitions, including shows at the Tate Britain in 2004 and 2007. He had a solo last year in Bath, England at Victoria Gallery.

Mayne is survived by his wife, Ann Jellicoe, as well as by a daughter, a son, and their families.

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