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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Roger Mayne: May 5, 1929-June 7, 2014

Above Image: Hey Mister, Take My Picture, 1956

On Saturday, June 7th, British street photographer Roger Mayne passed away due to a heart attack at age 85.

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Self Portrait, 1956

Mayne’s photographs documented the lives passing through post-war London neighborhoods from the late 1950s through the 1960s. His work was honest and raw, filled with images that didn’t distort the way of life in working-class neighborhoods. While his subjects (primarily children) were poor, he emphasized their innocence, spontaneity, and lightheartedness in spite of hardship. His photographs captured the true spirit of his subjects, showing their comfort around the photographer who dropped in on their neighborhood of Southam Street on numerous occasions over a five year span.

Web1Goalie, Brindley Road, Paddington, London, 1956 & Dublin, 1957

“The reason for photographing poor streets is that I love them. Empty, the streets have their own kind of beauty, a kind of decaying splendor and always great atmosphere—whether romantic on a hazy winter day, or listless when the summer is hot; sometimes it is forbidding; or it may be warm and friendly on a sunny spring weekend when the street is swarming with children playing, or adults walking through or standing gossiping. I remember my excitement when I turned the corner into Southam Street, a street I have since returned to again and again.” –Roger Mayne, Universities and Left Review, Spring 1959.

A self-taught artist, Mayne's unique approach to street photography made him into one of the 20th century’s leading photographers, influencing documentary and fashion photographers alike. He had an eye for detail and developed a characteristic aesthetic that centered upon his preference for high contrast printing. His work appeared in The Sunday Times, the Times, and Vogue.

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Girl Jiving, Southam Street, 1957

Mayne’s solo exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum in 1986 thrust him back into the spotlight in later years. This attention was furthered by the use of his images on album covers and concert backdrops by Morrisey in the 90s. His photographs are included in numerous institutional and private collections around the world such as Art of the 1960s: This was Tomorrow at Tate Britain (2004); How We Are: Photographing Britain (2007); and Roger Mayne: Aspects of a Great Photographer at the Victorian Gallery, Bath (2013).

Roger Mayne's body of work represents an important step in the development of documentary and journalistic photography. With his death, the photo world has lost an influential icon.

Text by Ashley Minyard

All images are "copyright estate of Roger Mayne, courtesy of Gitterman Gallery."

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Southam Street, North Kensington, London, 1956

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